“He’s the best player in Europe this year.” It’s a bold statement, but when it tumbles from the lips of no less an authority than Zinedine Zidane, it’s not something to be taken lightly. So who was the French legend referring to? Messi? Ronaldo? No, Zidane’s subject hails from Cardiff, and speaks with a gentle Welsh lilt and fairly down to earth demeanour. He was talking of Tottenham and Wales’ Gareth Bale.
He’s the in-form British player in the Premier League, netting goals for both club and country with a regularity only surpassed by their variety. His one goal and a further assist on Saturday helped Spurs into third place in the league, and kept them on course for a coveted Champions’ League spot. It’s a not unfamiliar tale as the percentage of goals that the Welshman has either scored or created in recent games is reaching remarkable proportions, and begs the question as to what would the north London team would do without him. If they fail to secure that qualification top four place come season’s end, they may just find out next season.
Manager Villas-Boas has the club on course to qualify of course, but things go awry sometimes, and having slogged through a Europa League campaign this year, Bale is very much tuned up to play in Europe’s premier club competition next season. Clearly, even if Spurs do come unstuck, there’s a possibility that Bale could be persuaded to give it another go at White Hart Lane. Rest assured however that there’ll be a few of the continent’s major forces singing a siren song in the Welshman’s ear, and such tempting invitations could be enough to turn anybody’s head. Bale is still only 23 and if his form holds until season’s end, a bid of £60million to £70million, or cash plus players, may be waved under Daniel Levy’s nose, and the Spurs chairman may be moved to cash in. But whose cheque would it be?
For a while now, the talk of a move from Manchester United has been posed as an obvious option, and indeed, should he become available, he may be the ideal replacement for fellow Welshman Ryan Giggs. The attractions to Ferguson are clear. Across Manchester, money-bags City would doubtless also be keen to register their interest, but as I understand it, should he be offered the opportunity to choose, Old Trafford could be Bale’s new home. It’s one of those few occasions where Chelsea may not be involved in bidding for a monster signing. My information suggests that their attention will be concentrated in a different direction. Where would United’s rivals for Bales signature come from then?
It’s highly likely that Real Madrid would throw their hat into the ring, and if they sell Ronaldo – as has been regularly rumoured – replacing him with a younger player with a soaring reputation and the potential to be a world star, may appear to be an attractive piece of business. Across the country in Catalunya however, Barcelona will also have an interest. David Villa is likely to be shipped out in the summer and currently the crop of output from the cantara is showing up a little short of wide players. Tello is showing promise, but that may not be enough. From Bale’s perspective, playing for either of Spain’s top two would be a compelling prospect, but the Madrid deal may only go ahead if Ronaldo leaves, whereas at the New Camp, he would be lining up alongside Messi, Xavi, Inniesta, et al.
All Spurs fans will be clinging onto the top four scenario, as if that is achieved, all bets are off, but securing the position is by no means certain, and should Arsenal and Chelsea exile their city rivals back to the Europa League, it may be that the Welshman Bales out.