By Luke Duffy (@LucaLockheart)
Real Madrid. World record bids. Being touted as one of the best two or three players in Europe. Heady stuff right? At this moment in time these are words that are being associated with Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur. There is no doubt that the twenty-four year old Welshman is a serious talent, but in order to provide a little bit of perspective, let us introduce other words and phrases used to describe him as little as four years ago.
Flop, somebody who will never make the grade in the Premier League. In the first twenty-three games Bale played for Spurs, they won none. It was laughable. Now infamous talk of shifting the suspect left back off to Birmingham City for £3 million so that Tottenham could cut their losses on him was not so much a football rumour, but something that made a lot of sense for the London based team who had dreams of going places. So how did this dramatic change come about? Well, moving him into a more attacking role was the making of the man, with his play going from strength to strength, which culminated in a fantastic individual season last year for the player. He won games for his team on his own, and in the process drew admiring glances from suitors the world over. His demolition of Inter Milan as far back as 2010 was his official coming out party, and since that memorable night in the San Siro his career had moved along at a rapid pace, which is where we find ourselves now.
Gareth Bale has never won anything with Tottenham, the closest he has come is a runners up medal for the 2009 League Cup. Yet Real Madrid want to offer the most money anybody has ever paid for a player ever for his services? Something just doesn’t feel right here. As stated before his talent is not in question, but at that age Cristiano Ronaldo was a better player. Yes he also played for a better team in Manchester United which gave him a much better opportunity to win things, but you felt his £80 million move to Real Madrid seemed justified. Ronaldo had done it on the big stage, and done it consistently and prolifically. Bale’s seemingly inevitable move throws up far more questions than answers which really makes you wonder if it is in his best interest to move at all.
Firstly, the price tag. That’s a lot of money, and the pressure to succeed will be immense. He cost more than Ronaldo, so the average football’s fans logic will be that he will have to outperform the main man at Madrid. Which brings us to point two. How exactly does Ronaldo feel about all of this? Potentially there could be the arrival of a player who has won nothing, off the back of one extremely memorable season, but which his team finished fifth, and he costs more than the prized peacock of the group, Ronaldo himself. Surely this wouldn’t go down too well? Ronaldo has an ego, all great players do, and he has expressed his desire before to become the highest paid player on earth. He may still earn more than Bale, but to not even be the most expensive player on his own team, surely that will ruffle his feathers. Thirdly, Bale has been given free license to play how he wants at Spurs. He is by no means a diva who shuns defensive work, but it is all about him. At Madrid, he would be expected to play within a system, a sparkly cog in a galaxy of stars. It could work, of course it could as Bale is such a talent, but it won’t be easy.
To his immense credit, Gareth Bale has remained quiet throughout the whole process. He has not spoken out against his current employers, and he has conducted himself in the right way. He has been built up by those around him and now seems as if he is about to make the leap to try and establish himself as a true superstar. He did not ask for any of this, all he ever did was play football well, it was everybody else who did the talking about how good he was. Many of those same people have said he is the hottest property in world football too, but that is not true. If Lionel Messi or the aforementioned Ronaldo became available to buy tomorrow, Bale’s star would dim considerably. What is more accurate to say is that he is the hottest property available in world football at this moment in time.
Any player who can fetch over £30 million more than Zinedine Zidane was bought for would want to be special. Value of players increase over time of course, but even taking this into account Bale would fetch nearly double what Barcelona paid for Neymar earlier this summer, which is just a little bit mad. As stated before, his talent has never been in question, but perhaps the hype around the player really has become too much, swelling his true worth enormously. It seems now that acquiring the services of Gareth Bale has become something of a mission for Real Madrid, a statement, whatever the cost. Should he make the switch though, it would seem there will be far more questions that will need to be answered. Let’s just hope the hype and the eventual fee don’t cause this mercurial talent to crumble under the pressure, wherever he ends up.