If you were the president of a football club and had the best player in the world playing on the left wing in your team, what would you do?
You might want to promote a left winger from your reserves to the first team, and give him a chance to study the best player in the world and develop himself by playing alongside him. That would make a lot of sense. You might even want to promote two of your reserve players to the first team and help them both develop and fight for a place in the starting eleven. That too would make a lot of sense.
But the equations are not so simple if you are the president of Real Madrid, the biggest and most successful European football club in the world, a name that is synonymous with the greatest players in the world to have graced the sport. The equation further gets complicated when you have the most expensive player in the history of the game playing successfully (understatement) on your left wing, but he has only two years left on his contract. Add to that the fact that the reserve team player challenging for a place in the first team is Jese, one of the hottest young properties in the football market right now, who has been promoted to the first team along with Denis Cheryshev, another fine specimen of the club’s youth academy. For any other football club in the world, these three players would have been more than enough to cover a single position in the team. But not for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid’s insistent pursuit of Gareth Bale has raised many eyebrows in the football circuit. There is no doubt about the fact that the 24-year-old player from Wales has established his credentials as one of the best left wingers in the world right now, second only to Cristiano Ronaldo. But the fact remains that Real Madrid are not in an urgent need for another midfielder, having only recently reinforced their sides with the likes of Isco and Illarramendi. Madrid is one of the few teams in Europe who can boast of such an impressive midfield lineup at any given point of time: Ronaldo, Özil, Di Maria, Alonso, Modric, Khedira, Kaka, along with the new stalwarts Morata, Jese, Cheryshev, Isco, Illarramendi and Casemiro. Any president in the world would be happy to have more than two quality players vying for the same position. But not Florentino Perez. The man who ushered in the Galactico era at Real Madrid wants to add a 14th midfielder to the squad — Gareth Bale.
Gareth Bale’s arrival at Real Madrid will have several implications. The club has adopted a new ideology and is hoping to build the squad around the likes of young Spaniards such as Isco, Illarramendi, Morata, Jese and others. Even if the transfer is secured, Bale cannot quite expect to start on the left flank as the position is currently dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo and will only be vacated by his departure from the club. He will also not be able to play behind the striker as that is a role that is cherished by Mesut Özil, who will have Isco to give him company. That leaves the right flank, which is currently Di Maria’s and is a position that Bale is not accustomed to. So the question that is on everyone’s mind is how Bale fits into the scheme of things at Real Madrid.
It is often said in the Spanish media that Florentino Perez knows how to win the summer but not the spring. The President is known for his characteristic pursuit and ability to hook a big fish every summer for Real Madrid. The fact that the club could not add any trophies to their closet last season and then lost out on signing Neymar to their arch rivals this summer is being considered as a huge impetus for Perez to bring Bale to Madrid. The President knows that the only way he can keep the fans dreaming of the “La Decima” is by presenting them with the best players in the world in their hallowed all-white kit. And Bale fits that bill on all counts. Having recently won the club elections, Bale will also be the perfect presidential signing for Perez, a man known for his lofty signings. Add to the fact that Ronaldo has not yet signed his contract extension and refuses to see himself retiring at Bernabeu, despite such claims from the President, one can understand why Perez is keen on completing Bale’s transfer this season. Considering all these factors together, one can understand why Perez is ready to play ball with Daniel Levy’s audacious price tag on his prized possession.
At the same time, Bale’s arrival will certainly irk a certain Cristiano Ronaldo who is far from satisfied with the support he receives from the club and has also admitted to being “sad” at one point last season. With the Welshman starting for Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo will no doubt feel his importance and throne being challenged at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot ignore the fact that both Ronaldo and Bale are used to being the focal man in their team. They both like to be given a free reign on the pitch, both are free-kick specialists, both demand the ball from their teammtates, like to dribble and attempt shots on the goal from a distance. Who is to say that there will not be a minor clash or hostility as the two line up to take the same free-kick? The presence of such stalwarts will definitely disrupt the team harmony and balance that Ancelotti and Zidane are hoping to forge in their starting eleven. Madrid will also have to break the highest transfer fee record, which they did for Ronaldo four seasons back, to get Bale to Madrid — a fact that might not go down well with the Portuguese. It will also rob Jese of a place in the starting eleven, when the younger player has already publicly demanded a spot in the team or a move away from Real Madrid last season.
So what should Real Madrid do, and how should they conclude the Gareth Bale saga?
It seems far more advisable for Madrid to wait out another year, try and get Ronaldo to sign on the dotted line, give time to Jese and others to develop and see if Bale continues to attract them next season. Bale will definitely not be signing a new contract with Tottenham, and if Champions League football continues to evade him as it did this season, he will definitely force a move to another club as the Champions League is the ultimate stage and test for the best footballers in the world. Daniel Levy will then be forced to negotiate next summer with Madrid with his hands tied and all his cards on the table. There will also be a considerable drop in Bale’s price tag as compared to this transfer season. That will be the right time for the Los Blancos to sweep in and take the Welshman away.
But then again, when was the last time Florentino Perez showed some patience and did not make use of his extensive financial clout?