£85 million. Enough money to purchase every player in league two, twice. It also can buy you a Welshman named Gareth Bale. Which is precisely what Real Madrid have done. They have broken the world record for a transfer fee again to acquire president Florentino Pérez’s chief target. The main question surrounding the Bale deal apart from the enormous transfer fee, is how can Tottenham cope without their talismanic winger? They will probably cope better than Madrid will with Bale.
You see, the Bale saga has strengthened Spurs rather than weakening them. Andre Villas-Boas has already brought in significant quality to enhance his squad. Roberto Soldado has signed from Valencia, and he is a proven goal scorer who is capable of bagging 20-25 goals this season. Paulinho is a brilliant addition in the midfield anchor role, while Chadli is a great prospect for the future. There is no doubt Gareth Bale is a wonderful player, but Tottenham relied far too heavily on him during the last campaign. The whole system was built around the powerful skill set of Bale (Sigurdsson, naturally a central attacker for example, was moved out wide to allow Bale a free central role) and designed to allow him more space and freedom.
Bale scored of Tottenham’s goals in 2012/13. They now have other goal scoring options (Jermaine Defoe will surely be allowed play closer to the box rather than running the channels last season) and have a more flexible side tactically. It is also apparent that Villas-Boas has begun to reinvest some of the Bale money in improving his team. Christian Eriksen has signed from Ajax. He is a technically supreme player, capable of individual brilliance. They have also signed Roma starlet Erik Lamella. Director of football Paolo Baldini has a history with the Giallorossi and that clearly swung the deal in Tottenham’s favour. Imagine a front four of Lamella, Eriksen, Lennon and Soldado? Spurs could be transformed into outside title contenders.
And what of Real Madrid? Taking the quite frankly ludicrous money involved out of the equation, it is hard to justify the Bale signing for football reasons as much as anything. It is a struggle to see where he will play. Carlo Ancelotti is trying to implement a more “Spanish” style of play and recruitment, with more technically efficient players in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The signings of Isco and Asier Illarramendi would attest to that principal. Further more, Madrid’s decision to sell Mesut Özil, which in itself is a highly debatable issue as fans pointed it out during Bale’s arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Bale is an explosive, dynamic counter-attacking player, but is not as suited to a slow and methodical possession based team. Bale would be so much more suited to the ruthless counter-attacking style deployed by former Madrid manager José Mourinho.
Speaking of Ronaldo, how does this effect him? He is clearly not going anywhere at least this season, but does this effect his status as the club’s star player? Bale was most effective when given a free role at Spurs last year, but Ronaldo has that role at Madrid. He is the one who scores the majority of the goals, takes the set pieces and generally is their most important player. Will there be a clash of egos? Both will surely have to sacrifice elements of their game for the betterment of the team if they are to play together. There is also the question of Bale’s wage. What if the Welshman is payed as much or more than Ronaldo? Pérez, blinded by his own Galácticos policy, has failed to see the bigger picture. Instead of buying a player to suit the imprint of Carlo Ancelotti’s side, Pérez has once again gone for a trophy signing.
The man Pérez has done business with, Daniel Levy, has once again negotiated a brilliant deal for his football club. To get £85 million for a player they signed for a little over £7 million from Southampton back in 2007 is extraordinary. They have also improved their squad and are in good shape. Pérez, while delivering a massive signing who will clearly deliver commercially for the club, has done so to the detriment of the team. He has caused potential problems for his coach and maybe upset his best player. Bale maybe the most sought after player in Europe and may possess extraordinary talent, but Tottenham look to be much stronger without him than with him. It will be intriguing to find out if Madrid are stronger with him than they were without him.