A transfer to Manchester United will always seem a better fit than Madrid
I don’t think Daniel Levy will be too sympathetic to the diminishing quality of the Premier League and the loss of a number of its biggest stars over recent years. Based on transfers between Tottenham and Manchester United in the past, it’s incredibly unlikely Levy would entertain a serious approach from the Premier League leaders.
But it’s not really a surprise that reports have emerged of Alex Ferguson’s interest in the winger. It’s also no great surprise that much of what is said in the Spanish press just echoes the reports in the British papers. Gareth Bale is on the radar of Real Madrid, but is the interest as intense as it’s said to be? Bale could have landed at United prior to his move to north London, and it’s quite plain that here is a player who perfectly fits the mould of wingers Ferguson targets.
The talk has been of Bale replacing Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu. But it’s difficult to see that as a long-term success – and not because of Bale’s ability. Rather, the Spanish champions are currently caught in a whirlwind of Jose Mourinho tactics, tried and trusted with trophies in abundance. But it’s not the Madrid way; Bale replacing Ronaldo at Old Trafford rather than the Bernabeu seems a far better step for the Welshman’s career.
It’s not even beyond possibility that Bale could stay at Tottenham. What reason does he have to leave? Sure, the trophies are sure to come quickly if he makes the move to one of Europe’s giants, but there isn’t a pressing need to move on at only 23.
Bale is playing the best football of his career in a team set up for him. Would Madrid offer him that luxury? Absolutely not – and once again it’s not a knock on his ability.
Mesut Ozil is the most important player in Mourinho’s team. He conducts the flow of the game and the entire team looks noticeably better with the German in the side. And you don’t really need to go into too much depth with regards to Ronaldo, who has 45 goals for Madrid this season.
Angel Di Maria, who operates on the right side of the attacking three, is far more useful when given the freedom to create in the final third. Yes, he is capable of scoring, which could be replaced should Bale arrive, but his value is in linking up with Ozil and feeding Ronaldo or either of the two forwards. The Argentine’s performance away at Sevilla in December 2011 in a 6-2 win is a template for what the team need from him: another player who can unlock doors, not someone in the mould of Ronaldo.
It’s also interesting that Luka Modric’s ‘failed’ first six months at Madrid seem to be over. The team’s counterattacking system works best when the opposition comes out of their own half and offers to play an open game; a tactical approach from the opposition that hasn’t always been adopted. Teams know that defending deep can frustrate this Madrid side, which has since allowed Mourinho to utilise Modric in a creative role just outside the opposition penalty area. It’s a style of football that needs players like the Croatian, Mesut Ozil and even David Silva, who has been linked with a move back to Spain in the past. It’s not to say Bale is certain to fail, but he doesn’t necessarily fit the bill for what the Spaniards may be looking for.
Manchester United, however, is a completely different prospect: a club who need a midfielder to take control in the way Ronaldo did in the past, and certainly if Ferguson is going to persist with his refusal to address to central midfield position.
The nature of English football is familiar to Bale and he understands what is required of him, even at a team like Manchester United. The pressure will certainly be on for him to succeed and produce instantly if he moves to Old Trafford, but it’s possible he will be made the star of that team and specifically of their midfield.
While Madrid are certain to introduce a number of fresh faces this summer, it’s players like Isco or Mario Gotze who are far more likely to land at the Bernabeu. The most probable situation for Bale this summer is that he stays at White Hart Lane, because even with the view that contracts are worthless in the modern game, Daniel Levy has absolutely no reason to sell. After that, and should Bale genuinely become available, how likely is it that Manchester United don’t make a strong push for one of the stand-out names in English football?