Six years ago, in 2007, Tottenham Hotspur struck a 10 million euro transfer deal with Southampton to get a little known 18-year old footballer going by the name Gareth Frank Bale. No one took any notice. The year 2007 belonged to the superstars like the Brazilian Kaka, Argentinian Lionel Messi and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo. Other equally accomplished footballers in 2007 were Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, Englishmen Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, Frenchman Thierry Henry, German Miroslav Close, Brazilian Ronaldinho and Argentinian Carlos Tevez. Most of these guys are still playing great football. But Gareth Bale was definitely an unknown quantity. Hardly anyone knew him except perhaps the football fans in Southampton and Tottenham.
In the glamorous world of super-charged football, Bale’s switching from Southampton to Tottenham in May 2007, for a four-year contract, was not exactly exciting news. Moreover, his progress in his new club was marred by injuries, to the extent that he had to wait for nearly three years to make his first winning start. Bale’s name started circulating somewhere around the middle of 2010, when he played some great games for his club. In the Champions League, he netted a hat-trick in Tottenham’s victory over Inter Milan and was declared the player of the match, in the return leg of the championship, when Tottenham red-faced the defending champions, a second time in the league. These victories were special since Tottenham had to qualify for the champion’s league, while Inter Milan were the reigning champions. Bale followed his scintillating performances in the next league season, in which he scored a career best eight league goals.
But despite these performances, even the most avid follower of European football could not hazard to count Bale in the same celebrity class as Messi, Kaka, Ronaldo, Drogba and others. Against this background, the inter-club haggling between the owners of Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur Spurs, for Bale’s transfer price, raised furrowed brows. 100 million euros is no loose change. Moreover, it is now quite well known that Tottenham bosses asked for 120 million euros and showed great reluctance in letting Bale go at 100. No player in the history of European club football has ever commanded such hefty price. The closest anyone has come to this figure, is Bale’s new team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, whose transfer fee was about 94 million euros. But one thing is certain. The 100 million euro deal struck on Gareth Bale will have a domino effect. Though Kaka has returned to AC Milan, it was a very strange free transfer. But when the time for his transfer comes again, one eye will always be focused on Bale’s unprecedented transfer price.
Talking about the domino effect and assuming Messi, Ronaldo and others also become available for transfer, it is difficult to imagine what they will command. But they will certainly be worth far more than Bale.
As for the game, Bale has to absolutely throw his heart and soul into the game now. The process of coping with such a huge burden is never easy. The higher the price, higher will be the expectations. MOTD presenter and former Spurs striker Gary Lineker says about Bale; “He’s got it all. He showed that last season. The only question now is whether he’s got the mental strength to be able to cope with such a big move.”
But you can’t deny that the money put on Bale is huge by any standards. Such a price will be very hard to justify. There will be too much spotlight in Spain this football season, when Bale takes to the field. He will be under a constant scanner in every game he plays for Real Madrid.