Gareth Bale? Which Football club anywhere in the world would reject the notion of having Gareth Bale in their 1st-team squad? That question asked now would bring about loud cries of “Yes!” Considering that Bale was once the subject of a potential part-exchange deal between Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough for the then Boro winger Stewart Downing, much has changed over the past few years. After a personal run of 24 Premier League matches without a win, Gareth Bale has since become 1 of the most recognisable and highly-rated Footballers on the planet. As such, Real Madrid want him. Florentino Perez wants him. Another name for Perez’s collection of Galacticos.
For all the positives that would come with signing Gareth Bale, Real Madrid most definitely should not overlook the potential dangers that signing the Welsh international could bring to the Santiago Bernabeu outfit. La Fábrica. Cristiano Ronaldo. Simply put, there are more important things to be done than adding to what is already a star-studded 1st-team squad.
With a Footballing superstar like Cristiano Ronaldo already on their books and being the face of Real Madrid, one of the last things that Florentino Perez should do is anything that would put a knock on the Portuguese maverick’s ego. With his contract having reached the danger zone of 2 years remaining, Ronaldo could force an exit next summer with the threat of leaving on a Bosman free in 2015. While the winger did have doubts about signing a contract extension that would seemingly keep him at the Bernabeu past his current peak years, there have been signs of an improvement in player-club relations after the end of Jose Mourinho’s reign in Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti is as intelligent and astute as any coach in the Football world at this point in time, and so his man-management ability should be enough to ease Cristiano’s worries and eventually get him to sign an extension. Signing Bale would take some of the spotlight away from Ronaldo. Truth be told, we all know how much Cristiano Ronaldo loves the spotlight, don’t we? Knocking the ego of your club’s superstar – Not a wise thing to do.
Gareth Bale is a good player, there’s no doubt about that. But is he “Transfer World Record” good? We might want to disagree. Granted, Bale has been on the up and up since his famous ‘Maicon-ator’ UEFA Champions League performance at the San Siro in 2010. Momentum is on Bale’s side and he was one of the best attackers in the English Premier League last season, but El Presidente should not get carried away with his obsession over the biggest names in Football. Gareth Bale is not worth a world record transfer fee and Los Blancos would be foolish to pay it, as their current financial debt has decreased gradually with each passing year and UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations coming into effect. Gareth Bale is a ‘want’, not a ‘need’.
On that ‘want’ vs ‘need’ aspect, signing Gareth Bale could just be a way for Florentino Perez to stroke his considerably-sized ego. After all, Perez did revive the Galacticos policy, which can trace its roots back to Santiago Bernabeu signing the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano and Raymond Kopa in the 1950s, when he was first elected Real Madrid President back in the year 2000. With the groundwork for signing the “biggest name” Galactico signed in recent years, Cristiano Ronaldo, having been done by Perez’s predecessor Ramon Calderon, the Portuguese isn’t truly seen as absolutely Perez’s big signing. Signing the Portuguese superstar is seen as Ramon Calderon’s legacy as President (besides the infamous vote-rigging scandal). Yes, that’s despite Perez being the President that officially unveiled Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing at the Santiago Bernabeu. Having been re-elected unopposed this summer, what better way to signal the coming of his 3rd Presidential term than to sign the current most-talked-about name in football?
“Florentino Perez wanted to stop the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. When he became President he found that Cristiano was already signed, and I know that he wanted to stop it, but Jorge Valdano and Jose Angel Sanchez convinced him not to. They said he was mad. He did not look to kindly on it and Ronaldo knows this.”
Ex-Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon on Real Madrid signing Cristiano Ronaldo
As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing is bad”. This well and truly encapsulates Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez’spursuit of Gareth Bale. With an array of both proven and up-and-coming stars – Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco, Mesut Özil, Ángel di María and Kaka, to name a few – in the playmaking trio of Ancelotti’s 4-2-3-1, Bale would turn it into a situation of overcrowding as he would more-or-less be a mandatory starter. Conversely, the current attackers, with the exception of Ronaldo, have shown no trouble with accepting a rotation for the remaining 2 spots in the triumvirate. Having Özil, di María, Isco and Kaka fight for just the 1 solitary remaining spot could be a disaster with a potential clash of egos that could cause Real Madrid’s season to gradually and/or eventually fall apart from the inside out. Again, “want” vs “need”.
All talk of the positives that would befall Real Madrid with signing Gareth Bale are theoretical. This theoretical aspect can be turned the other way round too – there is no guarantee that Gareth Bale will fully adapt to a foreign culture both on and off the pitch. Where the on-pitch adaptation is concerned, Spanish Football compared with its English counterpart is, according to Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla, is “more tactical”, “less space”, “less time” and “less fun to play”. Having played all of his domestic Football in England so far, could Gareth Bale successfully adapt to a more tactical brand of Football?
“Compared to Spain, the Football here is less tactical, but more fun to watch and play. There’s too much technique in Spain and they are held back by it. This makes the match more boring. There’s a better pace in England. There’s also more space, especially for Footballers like me, and more time to think. Teams always want to attack and score goals in England. In Spain they are locked down by tactics.”
Spanish star Santi Cazorla comparing English and Spanish Football
Off-pitch factors should not be overlooked when football clubs sign players. This applies to not only this potential Bale signing but to every club and every transfer, even more so if a player is moving to a foreign country. Clubs sign the ‘whole package’ when they sign a player. They sign a human being, not just a footballer. With such an exorbitant price tag, Gareth Bale could either be a complete success or a flop (after being unable to bear the weight of his price tag and the expectations that come with it). Both parties would be taking a gamble – Madrid a financial and sporting (‘overcrowding’) gamble, Bale a sporting gamble (risking his currently extremely positive career momentum).
A mix between the on and off-pitch factors would be the kickoff timings of football matches in Spain, with a CET range of 6pm to 11pm on matchdays. That is a stark contrast to kickoff times in English Football, with league matches having a kickoff time range of noon to late afternoon. In his autobiography, the recently-retired Michael Owen talked about this stark contrast and having to adapt (boredom and all) to the late kickoffs during his time as a Real Madrid striker. You could call this just a small detail, but it’s often the little nuances, the small details, that end up making a considerable difference in the big picture of things.
Many promising youngsters – such as Roberto Soldado, Juan Mata and Alvaro Negredo – have left Real Madrid after not being given proper chances to make a 1st-team breakthrough. After years of waiting and poor decision-making, Los Blancos now have 2 of the finest young talents that their youth academy, La Fábrica, has produced over the past decade – Jesé Rodriguez and Álvaro Morata. Jesé, in the season he turned 20, finished the 2012/13 Segunda Division campaign with 22 goals and 12 assists in 38 league appearances for Real Madrid Castilla. With his dazzling performances for Spain’s youth sides, Jesé has impressed at both club and international level. He is more than ready to be a 1st-teamer from this summer onwards, perhaps with a few appearances every now and then for the Castilla side in La Segunda. The same can be said for Alvaro Morata, who has impressed at both domestic and international levels thus far, culminating in being awarded the Golden Boot, scoring some vital goals in the process, at this summer’s 2013 UEFA U21 European Championship. Morata has more 1st-team experience than Jesé. The young striker has in fact impressed in a top-flight Clasico, playing the full 90 minutes in the 2nd league Clasico of 2012/13 and capping off his impressive display with an assist for Karim Benzema in a 2-1 home win. With Jesé able to play anywhere along the line of 3 in the aforementioned 4-2-3-1 that Ancelotti is expected to continue with, not forgetting the more than fine crop of 1st-teamers in that area with both quality and strength in depth, signing Gareth Bale would hamper Jesé’s development at Real Madrid. With Gonzalo Higuain’s swapping of Real Madrid and the Santiago Bernabeu for Napoli and the Stadio San Paolo, a real gap has opened up for Morata to firmly squeeze himself into the 1st-team picture as both an understudy and competitor for Karim Benzema. While Cristiano Ronaldo has been tried as a striker in pre-season against French outfit Olympique Lyon, he’s expected to revert to his familiar left-sided role.
With Isco, Asier Illarramendi, Dani Carvajal, Jesé Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid and Florentino Perez have a rare golden chance to somewhat re-create the much-vaunted La Quinta del Buitre – the generation of 5 home-grown youngsters (Emilio Butragueño, Manolo Sanchís et al) that helped Real Madrid dominate Spanish Football in the 1980s. With the potential of something like that in their hands, Perez would be foolish to sign Gareth Bale and hamper the development of Jesé and Morata, particularly the former. Granted, Jesé could leave on loan, and Malaga have been linked, but why spend 100 million and loan out your brightest prospect when your coach wants to and is undoubtedly able to groom these starlets in the 1st-team? Real Madrid should not sign players just because they can.
“We’re ready to start the season. I’m happy with what I have, why talk about Bale if Morata and Jesé played so well today. I’m very happy about them, they’re very young but they have great ability.”
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after a 3-0 pre-season win over Italian giants Inter
“Zidane doesn’t think Jesé Rodríguez should leave”
Real Madrid President Florentino Perez on Jesé Rodriguez
With home-grown talents like Jesé Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata good enough and ready to be 1st-teamers, coupled with the potential negative repercussions of signing Gareth Bale for an exorbitant fee, Real Madrid need to watch for what falls over the edge of Florentino Perez’s Galacticos plate. It could well be “a Jesé Rodriguez” that falls over the edge. Just, be careful of what you wish for.