So, having finally completed his long-awaited transfer to Real Madrid, Gareth Bale on Sunday evening became the most expensive footballer in football history.
It’s a statement which will take some getting used to – not because Gareth Bale isn’t an excellent footballer, but rather because the fee is at a level which shouldn’t be paid for any footballer who isn’t Lionel Messi.
It’s still difficult to determine which of the two clubs involved are most guilty of getting carried away: Real Madrid, for being willing to pay such a fee in the first place; or Tottenham for believing that their player was worth more than the reported £81million offered to them earlier in the summer.
To put the price tag into perspective, only a small handful of players have ever transferred for a fee in excess of £40million. Amongst that small group of players are Zinedine Zidane, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It seems absurd to think that Gareth Bale, good though he is, can be valued at almost €35 million more than Real Madrid paid for Kaka, at a time when Kaka was a recent winner of the Ballon D’Or and World Player of the Year awards, and internationally regarded as one finest players of his generation.
It appears equally crazy that Real Madrid value Bale at a fee which is greater than the world-record price paid to land Ronaldo in 2009, who has gone on to break countless records in his four years at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Of course, Real Madrid’s transfer activity has often had an element of how much commercial success a player’s arrival can bring. That was seen during the first era of Galacticos, and also during the second era, brought about by Florentino Perez’s successful re-election as club president.
Kaka and Ronaldo were prime examples of players who were always likely to bring plenty of money into the club through its sale of merchandise.
But even from a commercial point of view, it’s hard to understand how much sense it makes to splash out so much money on Bale. As an international star, he’s simply not in the same league as Ronaldo or Messi, nor of Xavi, Iniesta or even Neymar, Barcelona’s new signing.
The other risk for Real Madrid is that should Bale not be successful in Spain, there would be difficulty recouping much more than a third of the transfer fee. This is always a possibility when a club spends a record amount to sign a new player, but the risk is minimized when the player in question has proven themselves consistently at the highest possible level.
Bale’s quality is much more well-known in Britain than throughout the rest of Europe, and he’ll be under intense scrutiny from football fans across the globe as he sets about the task of showing why Real Madrid paid such a high price for his services.
From Tottenham’s perspective, most of the focus has inevitably centred around the loss of their best player. However, that shouldn’t detract from the fact that they already had a squad with enough quality to make the league’s top four and with the investment of the money raised from Bale’s transfer, Spurs could, or perhaps should, go on to push for the title.
New additions such as Roberto Soldado should help fill the match-winning boots of Gareth Bale, while increased quality in other areas of the squad could drive Tottenham towards the kind of success which cannot be achieved when dependent solely on one man.
It certainly has given Spurs an advantage over rivals such as Arsenal and Liverpool in the battle for Champions League qualification – and should the team from White Hart Lane achieve that, then there may not be long to wait for a reunion of football’s costliest player with that of his former club.