You can almost picture it. Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez – a man notorious for getting what (who) he wants – telling assistant coach Zinedine Zidane, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Just like Don Vito Corleone told his godson Johnny Fontane, who asked for help to secure a film role to boost his fading career in Mario Puzo’s critically acclaimed bestseller, The Godfather.
The offer in question is an outrageous £82m (€100m) bid – that would top the £80m Madrid paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 – for Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale. Let’s face it, no player is worth that, not even in today’s inflated market.
Bale has for long harboured ambitions of playing in the all-white strip of Los Blancos (swapping it for the Lilywhites) and turning out at the Santiago Bernabéu. But the one thing that could scupper the deal is the renowned obstinacy and folly of Spurs’ Chairman Daniel Levy.
Levy is a hardnosed negotiator and is known to be extremely painful to parley with. His intransigence led to the protracted transfers of Dimitar Berbatov (£30m) to Manchester United on deadline day in 2008 and Luka Modric (£33m) to Madrid in late August 2012.
And while Levy did manage to hang on to Modric for another season the earlier year, both those long-drawn-out moves led to extremely poor starts to their Premier League campaigns and ultimately cost them a Champions League spot.
Bale, however, is different. Even though he has been left distraught by Levy’s stance, he has remained humble. The Welshman has often expressed his desire for regular Champions League football – something the London club has never offered him on a consistent basis – but has always remained in good terms with the club’s hierarchy.
Considering how much Madrid have offered for Bale, knowing full well he wants to play for the nine-time European Champions, Levy could well turn the tables by saying Bale is contracted to Spurs for another three and is going nowhere.
And with his bloated ego, he could quote Marlon Brando from the Francis Ford Coppola epic in return, and say: “Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me.”
Too bad then that Levy’s unreasonableness (or steadfastness) would only earn him, and the North London club, a few extra quid (by raising the wanted amount to £90m). There is no bargaining chip whatsoever.
Levy should just swallow his pride, just this once, and accept the offer with both hands, and while he is at it, kiss the ring.
For two simple reasons:
- Holding a player back is effectively inutile; just ask Modric.
- Bale has simply outgrown the club by virtue of his ambition.
Having joined Spurs for paltry £5m (potentially rising to £10m) as an injury-prone left-back from Southampton in 2007, Bale has transformed himself from a timid gawky teenager to a frighteningly-quick, technically-gifted, free-scoring beast.
Due credit has to be give to Andre Villas-Boas for completing the transformation that began in 2010, when Bale destroyed Inter Milan at the San Siro (Brazilian right-back Maicon probably still has nightmares) with a hat-trick, having been positioned on the left flank by then manager Harry Redknapp.
Bale is a superstar and for most of last season was the difference between cross-town rivals Arsenal and fourth spot. His performances brought comparisons to Ronaldo and if he were to move to Spain, it remains to be seen where he would fit in, with the Portugal captain and him being like-for-like.
Deployed in a free-role just off the striker, the 24-year-old displayed his full repertoire, and scored 26 goals in all competitions sweeping the individual awards. He was also named PFA’s player and young player of the year and the Football Writers’ Association player of the year.
Bale has come a long way but for a long time his career was in a downward spiral; in 2007 (ankle) and 2009 (knee) he suffered career-threatening injuries. So much so that he was nearly shipped off to Birmingham for a measly £3m.
Opportunities such as these are rare and that is why he probably sees it as once-in-a-lifetime. Levy should also see it the same way. If Bale were to get injured or if he hangs on to him another year (like he did with Modric) his price will sky-dive as he will have only two years left on his contract or he might not perform to the same monumental heights the following season.
Tottenham have already captured Brazilian midfielder Paulinho for a club-record £17m from Corinthians and Belgian winger Nacer Chadli for £7m from FC Twente. They are also on the verge of finalising the transfer of the €30m-rated Valencia striker Roberto Soldado.
And like Jonathan Wilson, the editor of the football quarterly the Blizzard, said in his piece: for £82m you could buy four top-class internationals and that, frankly, would be of greater benefit in the long run than hanging on to a player who is unsettled.
But it is highly unlikely Levy could get that through his thick skull. Maybe somebody should put the severed head of an expensive racehorse in his bed, like Don Corleone did to the studio head. It would send the required message. For Fontane actually got the part in the end.
Cue Godfather theme.