LONDON -- The saga of the soccer star, his wife and his personal assistant dominated Britain's tabloid press for a fourth day Wednesday, with newspapers dissecting David and Victoria Beckham's French skiing holiday for signs of strife or reconciliation following allegations of his extramarital affair.
"We are family" declared The Daily Mirror next to photos of the couple and their two young sons. The Sun was less sure, heading its coverage "Beckham and the sleazy senorita."
The Beckhams are Britain's pre-eminent celebrity couple - he the England soccer captain with a gentle manner and flamboyant fashion sense; she the former Spice Girl with an unrivaled flair for self-promotion.
But on Sunday the News of the World newspaper reported that David Beckham, 28, had a sexual relationship with Rebecca Loos, 26. The daughter of a Dutch diplomat and an English mother, Loos worked for the star's management company SFX Group and acted as his assistant in Madrid until he cut ties with the firm in December.
The News of the World printed allegedly racy, but heavily edited, mobile phone text messages that it said David Beckham and Loos had sent one another.
It was the latest and most lurid tale of tensions in the Beckhams' marriage since David left Manchester United last summer to play for superstar-packed Real Madrid.
Victoria - the former "Posh Spice" of pop group the Spice Girls - continued to spend most of her time in England, working to resurrect a sputtering solo career and looking after the couple's sons Brooklyn, 5, and Romeo, 18 months.
The press was soon speculating about the couple's time apart; the Beckhams issued a statement in September any marital rift/
They were on the defensive again Sunday. In a statement, Beckham insisted his marriage was happy and called the allegations of an affair "ludicrous" - but stopped short of denying that an affair took place.
"During the past few months I have become accustomed to reading more and more ludicrous stories about my private life," the statement said. "What appeared this morning is just one further example."
The statement failed to scotch tabloid interest, with newspapers lining up to blame one side or the other - or sometimes both.
Wednesday's Daily Mirror ran pictures of the couple and their sons cuddling in a restaurant in the French ski resort of Courchevel.
"Claims of an affair between Beckham and his former personal assistant seemed a million miles away as Victoria tousled his hair and he perched her on his lap, nuzzling his face against the back of her neck," the paper gushed.
But on the next page, as the newspaper quoted a friend of Loos as saying she was still in love with Beckham and felt "heartbroken, betrayed and devastated."
The Sun threw its editorial support to Beckham, blaming Loos and saying the soccer star was "lured into a trap." The newspaper, Britain's biggest-selling daily, assured its readers that "Posh and Becks' marriage will easily survive this minor hiccup."
The Daily Express, too, sprang to the Beckhams' defense with a theory that the soccer hero might have been the target of a revenge plot by his former chauffeur and Loos.
Beckham is the world's most famous soccer player, and some analysts have said his multimillion-dollar marketability could be hurt by the tabloid allegations.
The Express accused rival papers of "pure animosity" and "barely disguised glee in the couple's discomfort."
The newspaper rallied behind Beckham as "a great advert for this country."
"He is an excellent footballer who practices relentlessly," it said. "Nor does be abuse his ability with booze and drugs, drop kick spectators, let off fire extinguishers, or as far as we know indulge in any of the exotic sexual group liaisons that pass for a romantic night out for many of today's footballers."
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