Gareth Bale, the reigning Premier League Player of the Year, finally completed his long-anticipated move to Real Madrid on Sunday for a world-record transfer worth over $132 million. Yes, you read that fee correctly. (Read it again in the Dr. Evil voice for full-effect.)
Bale signs a six-year contract with the Spanish giants that pays him over $10 million per season after tax.
The irony at play here is Bale quietly forced a move away from White Hart Lane after Spurs finished fifth last season and failed to qualify for the Champions League. Tottenham looks (on paper, mind) in better position to challenge for a place in the Top Four even without the Welshman’s 21 league goals. Spurs director of football Franco Baldini clearly had a plan in place for life after Bale at White Hart Lane all summer and Tottenham will be a radically different, perhaps better, club.
On Wednesday Spurs signed Argentine winger Erik Lamela from Roma for around $40 million. The spending spree didn’t end there, Friday Tottenham added highly-regarded Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen from Ajax.
With Roberto Soldado, Paulinho , Étienne Capoue and the other new players, Spurs have nearly overhauled their entire squad and given manager Andre Villas-Boas a wealth of options to work with. It could take some time to find a starting XI that works, but this is a stronger squad top to bottom and equipped to deal with the Premier League and the Europa League concurrently. Wisely, the club remained very fluid, moving players like Clint Dempsey, Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone who didn’t quite fit the mold in his preferred 4-3-3 system out the door.
Of course Spurs’ potential in August doesn’t mean a heck of a lot considering the club’s habitual inability to secure a place in the Top Four. (And even when they do like the 2011-12 season, they miss out on a technicality.) Figure on another neck-in-neck battle for the last Champions League place between North London rivals, Arsenal and Spurs. Haven’t we been down this road before?
Fittingly, Arsenal handed Spurs their first loss of the season, besting their North London Rivals 1-0 at the Emirates on Sunday. Spurs will end up spending around $150 million this summer while Arsenal, as of Sunday have spent … zero on new players.
At Real Madrid Bale becomes the latest ‘Galatico’ signing under club president Florentino Perez. Due to his British roots, Bale will draw comparisons to David Beckham and to a lesser extent Michael Owen by tired writers even if Bale is nothing like either player. Bale is 24 and at his peak when he heads to Spain, unlike Beckham who was 28 and Owen, who was only 23 but not exactly suited to the style of La Liga, lasting only 36 games at the Bernabeu.
As with most of Real Madrid’s moves the Bale signing is worth about as much for the headlines and buzz it draws as the actual impact on the field — sports shops across Europe have already begun selling Bale No. 11 Real Madrid shirts. Bale gives Real Madrid a fancy new toy to match Barcelona’s addition ofNeymar. As Barcelona coach Tato Martino commented last weekend, the $100+ million fee “lacks respect to the world in general.” It’s doubtful anyone outside of Perez could make a convincing argument that one soccer player is truly worth that kind of cash, but hey, it’s moves like this that make Real Madrid, Real Madrid.
Martino’s comments might come from the right place but his club forked out something in the range of $75 million for Neymar, albeit before he arrived.
Bale plays a similar position as Cristiano Ronaldo, so the two players in the same lineup is potentially redundant. Until Bale’s move, Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 had been the highest of all-time, checking in at around $120 million.
Figure on this heating up the Ronaldo returning to Manchester United rumors, as the soccer’s perpetual hype and rumor machine replenishes itself. We could now also see Mesut Özil or Iker Casillas on the move away from Madrid before the window closes on Monday. Kaka is also rumored to be leaving Real Madrid and moving back to AC Milan, which makes Kevin-Prince Boateng’s surprise move to Schalke on Friday make more sense.
This might go down as a rare Michael Scott “win-win-win” situation. Spurs concurrently cashed in on Bale and improved the depth of their roster, while Madrid got the star they wanted to keep up with Barcelona. The third win is for soccer fans since this seemingly unending, multi-year saga is over. (In this scenario we’ll conveniently overlook the creditors and shambolic Spanish economy.)