£86 million. Remember that number. Not because it spells quality, or class or even a certain shot at silverware, but because it is £6 million more than the biggest transfer of the modern era, spent by the same suitors, Real Madrid FC, for a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
Before we even begin to justify or rubbish the value, let us try and make peace with the fact that the number is nothing short of astronomical.
Zinedine Zidane, arguably the greatest player a decade ago, was in the news for the £46 million that changed hands. Juventus were at the receiving end, and none other than Real Madrid were footing the bill.
Michel Platini, president of the UEFA, was amongst the critics when the Ronaldo transfer was made public, stating in unambiguous terms that the stupendous money involved was immensely damaging to the sport, and no one was worth that amount.
But Real Madrid are nothing short of, for lack of a better term, Arsene Wenger in terms of shrewdness. Just over a year later, Madrid were rumoured to have recovered most of their initial investment with a reported 1.2 million shirts being sold with Ronaldo on the back.
Additionally, there was revenue from advertising, appearances and publicity which quickly made the Portuguese midfielder the most profitable player for the Spanish club.
Ceteris Paribus, the transfer of Bale might just throw up another storm in the accounting division at Madrid. But all things are not really equal in this case, as Bale is not even close to Ronaldo in terms of popularity or personality.
Everyone has an opinion on Ronaldo; they love him or they hate him. They love him because he is that good and they hate him because he is that much better. A Messi versus Ronaldo debate has raged on forever, but at that moment in time, only one of them was on sale. Before we digress any further, let’s quickly build a case for Bale, because even if he doesn’t, the numbers command it.
Overlooked by Arsene Wenger, the lanky Welshman at Southampton was given the cold shoulder after Theo Walcott was deemed more deserving of a move. Alex Ferguson, too, was said to be interested once, but apparently didn’t offer enough to tempt his the then manager, George Burley.
The Scotsman didn’t make much of the youngster either, but has since changed his view to accepting how the midfielder was in a different race altogether. Bale is one of the swiftest in the world of football today, and that doesn’t mean much because there is no use for a sprinter who cannot hold a baton.
Walcott has similar pace, but Bale outdoes him with his superior ability to cut through defenses, augment dead ball positions and wear out his opposition. Bale has the ability to dictate games, and is happy to be left to his devices. He is also extremely strong and technically gifted. Add that to his incredible bursts of goal scoring, and we have a champion. And we haven’t even mentioned that he is only 24 years of age.
Take all that in to account and do we hit the magical number? I don’t think so. A player’s worth is dictated by quite a few factors. To begin with, age and prowess are all checked on Bale’s list but the list is a long one.
Does he fit the FIFA 13 idea of ‘a crucial first team player’? Does he command a premium position in his current squad? Can Bale be deemed a franchise unto himself, a la Cristiano Ronaldo? Does he have the legs to go through an entire gruelling season after all the injuries and surgeries that he has undergone in the past? Will he be able to peddle enough merchandise that will let Madrid pay their staff a bonus come Christmas? Will he be able to adapt to conditions where quite a few of his league compatriots have failed? All of the above can be satisfactorily answered with both a yes and a no based on conjecture and precedent. But all of them need to be still seen once he reaches the shores of Spain.
To make it simpler, let’s assume you have £86 million in your pocket and Ronaldo in your squad. You have recently done business with the said outfit in the form of Luka Modric and signed a partnership where the world “will see the two clubs working together in respect of players, coaching, best practices and commercial relationships”. You have won close to naught in the competitions that matter. It is not a buyer’s market, with astronomical figures being quoted at the drop of a hat, and you have just relieved arguably one of the greatest coaches in the last decade.
Would you still make that move for Bale? Give us your take on Gareth Bale (in the comments section) and why (or why not) would YOU pick him to be in your squad.