At the time of writing this the transfer of footballer Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid in exchange for a massive lump of money is yet to be confirmed. It is, however, looking as inevitable as the tides rolling in and the sun setting. And with such inevitability has come the ominous sound of millions of hands being wrung together as all those connected with football attempt to fathom the fiscal ramifications of a figure somewhere between £80-100 million being shelled out for the Welshman.
The majority of the reaction on the medium of twitter has been quite negative towards the idea of Bale shipping off to the Spanish capital: “He’s nowhere near being worth that”, “To pay that amount of money for a player that has achieved nothing is ludicrous!”, “Ronaldo is twice the player he is!”..Ad infinitum…Ad nauseum.
The problem with all the bluster and comment around this “transfer saga” (© The Media) is that is an end result of trying to apply logic to a transfer that at its core is both logical and illogical. Its Schrodinger’s transfer. And the real truth is that the £100 million pounds Real are willing to spend might actually be the right number. Allow me to explain.
If we take the illogical element of the Bale transfer first we must peel back the shiny white exterior of Real Madrid inc. and peer into the greasy mechanisms that propel it along. At its nuclear core is Florentino Perez, the president 2nd time over for the most successful club in Spain. The man who during his first stint as president revolutionised (for better or worse) Real’s transfer policy- shifting it away from a conservative tactics-based approach to what soon became known as ‘Galaticos’.
Since its inception at the start of this century the policy of buying big has resulted in the biggest names in world football – Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo, Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo all wearing the crisp white jersey of Los Blancos. Buying big has been the key to this policy in more ways than one. Ever since the Transfer of Luis Figo Real have had a stranglehold on the record transfer fee. A badge of honour, which Perez feels belongs to Real. This modus operandi is totally at odds with any other model of how to operate in the transfer market. In a buyer-seller situation it is in the sellers interest to downplay its perceived demand for the sellers item so as to not inflate the asking price. Yet rather than keep their cards close to their chest Real have instead tattooed their demand across theirs in ten foot high letters, almost enticing David Levy to push his asking price higher and higher.
And that is the illogical side to the transfer coin. Real want Gareth Bale, that much is true. However when it comes to the fiscal realities of the transfer it seems that Real actually want to spend £100-odd million so as to be seen to spend £100-odd million. To Perez and co. the prestige is not just the thrill of the hunt or the prey being hunted, but the size of the gun used to trap it.
And so to the ‘logical’ part of the Bale transfer. This is the bit where I make a case that Gareth Bale is, in the logical world (i.e Anywhere outside Florentino Perez’s mind) worth the vast sum that is being paid for his services.
There is no doubt in his talent. He is truly world class, with searing pace and a howitzer left. And he is rightly mentioned in the same breath as Ronaldo, Van Persie, Ibrahimovich etc. The difference is with Bale, a point picked up by many, is that he simply cannot be worth this kind of money due to the fact he has not ‘achieved’ anything.
Yet the cornerstone of Real’s desire for Bale is not based on what the 24 year old has achieved, but what he will achieve at the Santiago Bernabéu. Or more to the point what Real can achieve through having Bale in their playing squad. Very little of Real’s policy or procedure is decided without one eye cast across to Barcelona. The first El Classico of each La Liga season is not played on the floodlit pitch but rather the much more murky playing field of the transfer window. Their rival’s transfer activity this summer – namely the acquisition of Neymar – would have prompted Perez & co. into a duel of transfer one-upmanship, with Bale very much their target.
A key factor in all Real Madrid’s Galaticos policy has always been the potential revenue that could be accumulated by having a global superstar in their squad. It is true that this is a consideration for all major clubs. But Real are unique in the sense that the marketability and merchandising revenue of a player take precedent over all factors including footballing ability. The opportunity to sign buck-toothed Ronaldinho was spurned in favor of David Beckham, a decision that in footballing terms failed but in shirt sales, particularly in Asia, payed huge dividends.
And Gareth Bale, while being nowhere near as popular as Beckham or Zidane yet still offers massive dividends for Real. Being a major ambassador for Adidas (coincidentally Real’s kit partner) and the face of the latest Fifa computer game are both attributes Real Madrid will be keen to exploit. And with Spain’s other transfer story of the summer, namely Neymar joining Barcelona, lacking the freshness that the 24 hour football media craves Bale’s transfer will be the major talking point for the opening months of European football.
So with much of the comment on the impending deal mocking the ‘madness’ of the figures involved, Madrid’s desire for Bale does stand on some sound calculations, albeit mind-boggling ones.
The results of the transfer, much like Schrodinger’s experiment, remain to be seen or unseen. One thing that is guaranteed if as expected Bale is added to the ‘Galaticos’ stable logic, for many, will fly out the window.