Skip to content

Expect to hear more about Gareth Bale and Real Madrid

Feb 16, 2013, 10:06 AM EST

FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-LYON

In something that’s becoming a more regular occurrence, Gareth Bale put himself front-and-center on Thursday, scoring twice in his team’s Europe League Round of 32 match, giving Spurs at 2-1 lead on Olympique Lyonnais. While that result amounted to little more than holding serve at home, few people cared about Spurs’ state after seeing Bale’s display. With two direct kick goals overshadowing a seemingly trademark point blank miss, the 23-year-old Welsh winger has started to transcend discussion of where he sits among England’s stars. With comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo flooding Friday’s papers in England, Bale is starting to carve out a place in the wider, global conversation.

Highlights of the game (courtesy of FOX Soccer) are below, with Bale’s first half goal creating a lot of buzz. From over 30 yards out, Bale hits a knuckler at Remy Vercoutre, a shot that dives down and to the keeper’s right as it reaches its apex. At first blush, the ball doesn’t seem to be struck that hard, floating toward goal in a way that makes you wonder how anybody could score from that far out against a top-level goalkeeper. But from the side angle, you can see Vercoutre freeze, his weight shifted to far onto his left foot as his dive comes up well short.

A winger with that dead ball skill is going to be compared to Ronaldo, but after today’s reports from Madrid-based outlet Marca, those comparisons may become more common. Notoriously cozy with Real Madrid, Marca is reporting Bale could be part of “a new project” Real will undertake this summer. That project will likely be refactoring the squad after a disappointing league season, with head coach José Mourinho probably gone.

For the most part, Marca’s report amounts to thin speculation, but there’s one tidbit that makes you think Bale’s future may really lie at the Santiago Bernabeu:

As revealed by MARCA on 28th December, Real Madrid will have preference over clubs looking to snap up Bale, after an agreement between the two clubs when Real signed Luka Modric in the summer.

If true, what this amounts to is a right of first refusal. If Real Madrid’s willing to match another club’s accepted bid, they can have Bale. And that’s if Real don’t make a offer of their own. Clubs like Anzhi Makhachkala or Paris Saint-Germain could conceivably proffer a fee Real Madrid’s unwilling to match, but this arrangement gives Real a huge advantage.

But the veracity of this news isn’t the scenario’s only if:

If Spurs Chairman David Levy accepts Bale’s request to leave the London club at the end of the season, ‘Los Blancos’ will have first choice, heading a long list of admirers of the player.

So let’s walk through the ifs, both implicit and explicit:

    • If Gareth Bale wants to move, which may be linked to,
    • If Tottenham fails to qualify for next year’s Champions League, and
    • If Real Madrid are (a) interested,
    • (b) willing to meet an acceptably high fee,
    • (c) can convince Gareth Bale to sign, and
    • aren’t outbid, …

… then Florentino Perez will have his 10th Galactico.

As improbable as it seems that all those factors will lineup, that’s the nature of transfers at that level of the game. Some happen. Most don’t. Because of the relationship between Tottenham and Real Madrid, this scenario seems more likely than most, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually likely.

For discussion’s sake, let’s fast forward six months and imagine what Real Madrid would look like with Bale in the squad. Although he’s capable of playing other places, Bale is a left wing, the same position Critiano Ronaldo plays with Real. One of them could go to the right side, they could spend some time in the middle, but ultimately there’s going to have to be some compromise. And that compromise, one which entails having spend time in a non-preferred position, might lead to a drop off in production.

The hypothetical move may also push another quality player, Angel Di Maria, out of the team, though Marca seemed to focus on Bale as a potential through-the-middle solution, talking about Bale’s ability to play centrally and comparing his goal rate to those of Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín. That positioning seems unlike. Tottenham manger briefly tried Bale in the middle of a 4-3-3 and ultimately decided to keep him left. As long as Real Madrid stays 4-3-3, Bale won’t be a good fit in the middle. But no matter who he’d replace – Di Maria or the Benzema/Higuaín duo – Bale would represent a very expensive means of marginal improvement.

Still, that’s the reality of acquiring players like Bale. The only teams that can afford him already have great players. In order to improve on them, you have to make some seemingly inefficient purchases. That’s often the only way the world’s haves and keep up with their peers. Barcelona, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich aren’t going to stop buying players just because the talent difference between Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gomez/Mario Mandzukic isn’t worth the $50-plus million Bayern’s likely to pay for the Polish international. They’re willing to be inefficient to be more competitive.

For some, this is the maddening world into which international soccer’s devolved. For others, it’s the inevitability of any competitive pursuit that operates at the extremes.

Regardless, at its core, this business involves players who can do things like this. Here are the highlights from Thursday’s game, where Bale and Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti engaged in a little game of golazo one-upmanship.

Latest Posts
  1. DONE DEAL: Arsenal, West Brom and Villarreal all got new players Wednesday

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    arsenal.com arsenal.com

    So what went down on Wednesday, as the transfer window took another step toward slamming shut?

  2. VIDEO: Christian Eriksen scores a free kick for the ages in League Cup semi

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Set up for a free kick outside the 18, Eriksen not only sent an arrow whizzing over the goal, but he managed to spin it into the far upper 90.

  3. Real Madrid will change the name of the Santiago Bernabeu

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:58 PM EST

    Bernabeu Getty Images

    The La Liga giant has woked out a sponsorship deal with United Arab Emirates-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

  4. USMNT postgame reaction: Jozy unsure of 3-5-2, Klinsmann explains changes

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:17 PM EST

    Klinsmann AP

    Jurgen Klinsmann remained upbeat, while Jozy Altidore was obviously disappointed.

  5. Player Ratings: Some good, some not so good in Chile’s 3-2 win over the U.S.

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:42 PM EST

    Chile US Soccer AP

    Breaking down the good, the bad and the ugly from Wednesday’s 3-2 loss in Chile.

  6. 3-5-2 system shows life, but plenty of work is needed

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Yedlin Getty Images

    Jurgen Klinsmann said he played the 3-CB system because he had DeAndre Yedlin available. So did it work?

  7. Chile 3-2 USMNT: Another lead disintegrates for Klinsmann’s crew

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:00 PM EST

    Chile US Soccer AP

    Another match fell apart in a haze of substitutions and mistakes as the United States blew a 2-1 lead in Rancagua on Wednesday night.

  8. WATCH: Yedlin to Diskerud to Altidore, and U.S. goes up 2-1 over Chile

    Jan 28, 2015, 7:03 PM EST

    Honduras v United States Getty Images

    Maybe Sunderland just doesn’t know how to use its forwards.

  9. At the half: Altidore, Shea have USMNT leading Chile 2-1 (video)

    Jan 28, 2015, 6:54 PM EST

    @USSoccer @USSoccer

    It was sloppy at times, with the States very much getting used to the 3-5-2 and both sides using a bevy of second-choice players.

  10. WATCH: Brek Shea opens the scoring for the USMNT in Chile

    Jan 28, 2015, 6:48 PM EST

    Ukraine v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Brek Shea’s first USMNT goal in a year and a half was a pretty nice finish.

  11. WATCH: Who throws a shoe (at a ref)? Arda Turan in Atleti’s loss to Barca

    Jan 28, 2015, 5:45 PM EST

    2fc2d5e8ed7f8aa879db8540f8f644b0 Getty Images

    Arda Turan was fouled, losing his shoe in the process. Since the linesman didn’t deem the offense worthy of a foul, Turan had one recourse.

  12. Klinsmann goes 3-5-2 versus Chile; Shea and Yedlin on the wings

    Jan 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    @USSoccer @USSoccer

    Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando is between the sticks for the States, and Jermaine Jones continues his time as a center back.

  13. Sheffield United 2-2 Tottenham: Eriksen sees Spurs to All-London final in absolute thriller

    Jan 28, 2015, 4:52 PM EST

    Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    After a thriller at Bramall Lane, Chelsea and Spurs will duke it out on March 1 in their shared home city for the League Cup.

  14. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Lots will be drawn to determine second place in Group D

    Jan 28, 2015, 3:57 PM EST

    FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH23-CMR-CIV Getty Images

    The lots will be drawn at 10am ET on Thursday. Winner gets Ghana on Feb. 1.

  15. U.S. international Sacha Kljestan signs for New York Red Bulls

    Jan 28, 2015, 3:01 PM EST

    Galatasaray AS v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Huge trade now makes sense as Kljestan arrives in MLS.

  16. Transfer rumor roundup: Cuadrado can join Chelsea for $40 million say Fiorentina

    Jan 28, 2015, 2:39 PM EST

    ACF Fiorentina v SSC Napoli - Serie A Getty Images

    With less than a week left in the window, here’s the latest gossip…

  17. Queens Park Rangers’ Canadian winger Junior Hoilett on Toronto FC, relegation battles and more

    Jan 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Toronto native Hoilett chats to PST about MLS, being involved in a Premier League relegation battle and much more in this one-on-one.

  18. Arsenal make it official, sign Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal

    Jan 28, 2015, 1:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C3-APOLLON-VILLARREAL FBL-EUR-C3-APOLLON-VILLARREAL

    Wenger get’s his man as Arsenal’s new center back has finally arrived.

  19. English FA charge Chelsea’s Diego Costa with violent conduct after stamp, may miss Man City match

    Jan 28, 2015, 12:28 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL

    Costa could miss Chelsea’s massive clash against Man City on Saturday. All the details, here.

  20. Chelsea sweating on fitness of Cesc Fabregas, plus others, ahead of Manchester City match

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea’s injury problems are piling up ahead of their huge tilt against City this Saturday.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22