Gareth Bale more than ready for Real Madrid
Should Bale move to Madrid, there is a school of thought it could trigger a chain of events concluding with Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates (far left) as Gareth Bale looks dejected during Spurs’ Champions League quarter-final clash in 2011. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson may not be soulmates but they share a key regret. Both men thought long and hard about signing the teenage Gareth Bale from Southampton but, ultimately, Wenger believed Arsenal could do without the Welshman while Ferguson suspected he was being asked to part with too much of Manchester United’s money and said “no deal”.
The then left-back ended up at Tottenham and, six years on, is the subject of a €100 million bid from Real Madrid. If the price is deemed right by Spurs, Bale, whose feet are itchy, would become the subject of the world’s most expensive football transfer. Meanwhile Wenger and Ferguson can only rue their failure to second guess the 24-year-old’s metamorphosis from full-back to left-winger to marauding attacking free spirit.
Should Bale move to Madrid, there is a school of thought it could trigger a chain of events concluding with Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford and offering Ferguson’s successor, David Moyes, a peerless “welcome” present. Wenger, though, has no such consolation in sight. “I must confess it was a huge mistake not to sign Bale when we brought Theo Walcott from Southampton,” said Arsenal’s manager earlier this year. “We didn’t take him because we didn’t need another left-back but we could have played him in midfield.”
Ferguson proved suitably impressed but even he did not predict Bale’s development from Walcott’s shy, lanky, best friend at Southampton’s academy into the 6ft 1in, supremely powerful, almost irresistibly pacy, technically accomplished, free-scoring athlete who would, one day, score a Champions League hat-trick against Inter. “Gareth Bale was a gifted, gangly boy,” said Ferguson last season. “But, then, all of a sudden he was built like a light-heavyweight boxer.”
By the time he destroyed Maicon at the San Siro in 2010, Bale had been converted to a left-winger by Harry Redknapp. Most importantly a rather slow-burn start at Spurs, in which indifferent form allied to two nasty injuries saw the then second-choice full-back close to being variously offloaded to Birmingham and Nottingham Forest was largely forgotten.
Partly thanks to the decision of Andre Villas-Boas, the latest Spurs manager and a key mentor, to deploy his unique brand of speed and skill in a broad-brush “number 10” type role, Bale’s price tag has soared to the point where it looks eminently capable of putting Ronaldo’s nose out of joint.
If fears he, his girlfriend and their baby daughter may, like Michael Owen, struggle to settle in Madrid are probably unfounded, there are other concerns. The chances of his thriving in a self-esteem rich, highly political, Real dressing room possessing Ronaldo as its current kingpin certainly look daunting. Bale remains undeterred. “I’m not afraid to leave the country,” he has said. “I’d learn another language and grow as a person.”