“Real Madrid offer world record offer for (insert player name here)” has been a common headline since the “Galacticos” era of Real Madrid under the stewardship of Florentino Perez began. In came world record transfer deals Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane, followed eight years later by Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo for a combined £136 million. Real have always had the allure of attracting the world’s biggest and best, since the glory days of European domination in the 1950s, right through until the present day.
Di Stefano, Santillana, Puskas, Sanchez, Gento, and Raul are all players that roll of the tongue when thinking of Los Blancos and that white strip, and it is not difficult to see how they can attract, fifty years after Di Stefano, the best players in the world. Real are the richest football club in the world with annual revenue streams in excess of 500 million euros (the first sports club ever to achieve this) and an estimated value of 3.3 billion euros.
Unlike the Galactios era, Real can now afford to pay the vast majority of players at the club a high salary, gone are the days of Zidane earning ten times a week of what Pavon earned for example. So, in true Perez fashion, he wants to build the best team in the world. To do this, he needs to invest in talent, this leads me to Gareth Bale.
The first question is why Bale and why now? An old tactic of Madrid has been as follows: (a) Declare player x will fit into the Real system, (b) Happen to fly a representative to the city in which player x plies their trade, (c) Claim to do everything in your power to sign player x, therefore ensuring player x becomes unsettled, because this is Real Madrid, (d) Do nothing, (e) Wait a year, the player has one year on his contract less and the selling club are fed up to the back teeth of a player whining about moving to Real Madrid, (f) Sign player.
However, there are a few variables in this equation that have made this far more intriguing, the first of these two variables is Neymar. Real are now under intense pressure to buy a marquee player to rival that of Barcelona, to show that Real still have the pulling power and are still the biggest club in Spain.
The second variable is Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman. As a fond Liverpool fan, I am fully aware of the disasters of having a poorly run club, however, Levy has, from the outside anyway, has got his club to run perfectly. Look back twelve months, when a certain Croatian play-maker wished to join Real, Levy was having none of the so called “underhand tactics” that Real employ, ensuring he got top dollar for a commodity which the all-powerful Real wanted, and you can bet your bottom dollar this will happen again if Bale is to move.
The second question is what would Gareth Bale bring to Real? As fans of the Premier League would know, a fine specimen of a player who looks after himself, a dynamic, powerful, skilful player with 21 goals to his name last season playing predominantly on the left, but these are facts that everybody knows.
A predicament that people would have certainly thought about would be where would he fit in? The obvious option would be to play wide right of a front three with Ronaldo on the left and Benzema through the middle, as I was thinking about what to write, I thought it would be good to see the statistics from the last season Ronaldo was at Manchester United and Bale last season and see if there would be a reasonable argument for spending potentially more on Bale than Ronaldo.
Considering both players are attack minded, I will concentrate on the attacking side of their statistics, league statistics are in brackets (shots, KP and assists are league only):
Appearances: 53 (33) Goals: 26 (18) GPG: 0.49 (0.55) Shots: 107 Key Passes: 53 Assists 6
Appearances: 44 (33) Goals: 26 (21) GPG: 0.59 (0.64) Shots: 165 Key Passes: 75 Assists: 4
So, from a little deduction, Real are (if statistics is all went go by) buying a player who has a better goals-per-game ratio playing for a weaker team than a Ronaldo in a Manchester United team did. However, Ronaldo seemed more efficient with his choices on the pitch, scoring three less goals from 58 less shots and creating two more goals from less key passes (obvious variables being team mates ability to score said chance). So, after the statistics, it would seem reasonable for Real to spend a fairly equal amount on Bale as they did Ronaldo, so let’s say they do just that.
So, Gareth Bale, once of Southampton fame has become the world’s most expensive player – In a team of superstars, where on earth would he go?
We can only suggest what formation Ancelotti will pluck for as Real manager when the season begins, but we could start by looking at his favoured formation from his days at PSG, the rather narrow 4-3-2-1:
If we assume the back line are Arbeloa, Marcelo, Ramos, and Pepe. There are positions in the team for which you could see Ancelotti struggling to accommodate players in, for example, if you look at the front three you would assume that Bale, Benzema, and Ronaldo would get the nod, but what about Di Maria and Ozil? Isco is not as comfortable deep lying but may have to play there considering his price tag, but he could be wasted and what about Modric, the player so desperately coveted by Mourinho last season?
Even though there is an argument for Benzema being dropped due to “only” scoring 20 in 50 games, which may not be enough to keep him in that front three. Modric only scored four, Isco scored nine (for Malaga) as did Di Maria and Ozil scored ten, so they need to have these players scoring more, or, replace them with a player who will.
Bale is far more comfortable now playing in the middle of the pitch now than his early days after Villas-Boas gave him the freedom of White Hart Lane to strut his stuff, and with the majority of his goals coming from surging down the middle, he would be ideal in that more central position off of the striker.
You could see a midfield three of Alonso, Ilarramendi, and possibly Khederia, who would probably get game time due to Ancleotti’s fascination with powerful, tough midfielders, see Gattuso at AC Milan or Thiago Motta at PSG.
In conclusion, Bale would fit into their system, a strong direct player who is very Ronaldo-esque, he could cover the overlapping runs of the left back or the right back (whatever side he plays), something of which Ronaldo lacks and would be a goal threat. Lets see if he has the “Curse of Bale” hanging over him if he moves, for those who remember, Bale did not register a win in a Tottenham shirt until his 25th appearance, now that would be the worse start to a Real Madrid career since a certain Jonathan Woodgate, the last British player to move to Madrid.