In 2009, the The Daily Mail reported that Birmingham City could buy Spurs ‘flop’ Gareth Bale for around £3 million. Nobody could have predicted then that Bale, playing as a left back for the club at the time, would now four years later become the world’s most expensive player of all time.
After months of speculation and anticipation the day finally came, on 1st September 2013, that Gareth Bale finally put pen to paper and signed as a Real Madrid player. The fee, believed to be £85.3 million, surpassed Madrid’s previous record breaking signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, back in 2009 for £80 million from Manchester United.
This poses the question of how much Bale can really impact Real Madrid? With 32 La Liga titles and 9 Champions League titles they are one of the most successful teams in Europe and are renowned for their history and competitiveness in the world of football. Bale will try to make his mark on club and indeed football history, by joining a team that already boasted the likes of Zidane, Raul, Figo and many other world class players who have all brought success to the club.
After going an entire season without winning any trophies, Madrid parted ways with manager Jose Mourinho and appointed Carlo Ancelotti. The signing of Bale is a statement of the club’s commitment to progressing back on track to winning ways again. However, it is difficult for me to see what Bale can bring to the team what they don’t already have.
Bale has developed magnificently during the last two or three seasons at Spurs. Originally brought into the club as a left back from Southampton in 2007, he struggled to make an impact due to injuries and poor performances. After returning from a knee injury, he began to make progress and was finally given the chance to prove his worth again. It was during the 2011/12 season, that he was moved from left back to the left wing position and it is here that he and Tottenham excelled. A hat trick against Inter Milan in the Champions League was a defying moment in his career and opened the eyes of the footballing world to his potential and talent. He picked up the Player of the Year award at the end of the season, a fitting tribute to his services for Tottenham.
His confidence grew and the goals kept tallying up season after season, becoming arguably Spurs’ most important player. Last season, under new manager Andre Villas-Boas, saw Bale switch from the left side to the centre of attack in midfield, allowing him to roam and dominant all areas of the pitch as well as amassing 21 league goals. This earned him the Player of the Year award for the second time in his career, as well as the Young Player of the Year award. Despite excellent performances from the Welshman, Spurs failed to reach the Champions League, losing out to the fourth place spot on the last day to bitter rivals Arsenal. With teams looking to swoop in on Bale, a move away from White Hart Lane looked imminent, with Madrid eventually succeeding.
Bale boasts confidence. If you were looking for Ronaldo’s twin, Bale is as close as they come. Fast, strong, powerful, good on the ball, the ability to beat defenders in tight 1v1 situations and a jaw dropping shot, the 24-year-old is a world-class player. His development at Spurs is astonishing, considering how far he has come in a short space of time. I think he owes this to the faith showed in him by former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who allowed him that chance to prove himself, despite those poor performances.
The problem for me is that Bale isn’t Ronaldo. Ronaldo is his own man, his own player. He still lacks that arrogance that Ronaldo possesses and it will take time for him to inject that fear factor into opposing teams in the Spanish league. Whist Bale was used to being the top dog at Spurs, he simply wont be at Madrid, I feel. Evidence of this can be seen from his unveiling, where just (and I use that word in the loosest sense) 20,000 fans turned up to see their newest Galactico, compared to Ronaldo, who saw 80,000. However, Bale remains positive, which is good to see, stating that “Ronaldo is still the boss at Madrid” and he seems to have prepared himself for this. It’s up to them now to fight amongst themselves over who will take the free kicks.
I like to look at a bigger picture. With Bale arriving at Madrid, this could lead Ronaldo away back to Manchester United. It is no secret that the Portuguese superstar longs to return to his former club, but this could be a deal that may happen sooner than expected. As for Bale, he could be the ideal replacement for Ronaldo, 28, if anyone ever could replace the 2008 Ballon d’Or winner. Ronaldo is the key man, the main focus at Madrid. With 147 goals in 138 appearances it will be interesting to see whether Bale will help or hinder his performances.
Another problem I feel is the positioning of Bale at Madrid. I can only see him playing on the right or the centre of the attacking midfield, whilst Ronaldo still dominates the left side. For me, the right wing position seems fitting, as the pair will look to power down each side. However, where does this leave regular starter Angel di Maria? A move away from the Bernabeu looked likely, with interest shown from Arsenal, but this never happened. Surely he won’t be impressed, as it looks certain that he will now lose regular first team action? We have already seen, arguably Madrid’s second best player, Mesut Ozil ‘forced’ out to Arsenal, paving the way for newly signed Isco into the starting eleven.
In the long-term, provided Bale works hard and continues to develop he will be an important player for Madrid. Their attack is already looking daunting for any opposition. Again, I refer back to the price tag. £85.3 million is a staggering amount. Is Bale worth that much? No. Will he be in the long run? Maybe. He may not be young anymore, but he is still not at his peak. Moving to the Spanish league at this age will play an important part in continuing his progress, as this gives him time, like Ronaldo, to develop and become the best he can be within this league. It would be unfair at this moment in time to say that Madrid have overpaid. A prime example is Fernando Torres when he arrived at Chelsea, after moving from Liverpool for a deal worth around £50million. He has not even come close to providing Chelsea with the services required for a player worth that kind of money. However, that does not mean to say Bale will be the same.
I think that he will take Madrid to new levels, with the improved squad he has around him. He is a big loss for Spurs, but they have used the transfer money received wisely and brought in a whole host of players, vastly strengthening their squad, as they look to return to the Champions League. Madrid has made an excellent signing and this was an offer Bale could simply not refuse. Earning an estimated £300,000 a week, the pressure is mounting. I still think that Madrid is more likely to impact him, than he will them, never the less, the newly appointed Number 11 will become a vital part in Ancelotti’s regime and Madrid’s future, more so if Ronaldo is to leave.