Daniel Levy wasn’t going to oblige Real Madrid any favours; it’s not his way.
The Tottenham chairman was in a position of power. Florentino Perez, his counterpart, desperately wanted Gareth Bale this past summer. The Welshman, having reportedly prepared for months for Real Madrid and only Real Madrid, was just as desperate to make the switch. But if the Spanish club were going to get what they wanted, Levy was determined to make sure it was a struggle on all fronts.
It may have been symbolic. Tottenham had lost 6-0 away to Manchester City. A simple 2-0 defeat would have told a story but not an accurate one. The 6-0 final score hit home all the problems of the post-Bale era at Spurs. Only the day before, Real Madrid had won 5-0 away to Almeria. Bale scored again. The following week, he hit his first hat-trick for the club, a “perfect hat-trick,” as Madrid beat Valladolid 4-0 at the Bernabeu. Whatever disadvantage Levy was trying to create for the La Liga side by stalling the transfer, it was not paying off.
Last year, Levy and Perez went to the wire for the first chapter in this war. Luka Modric was lost to Spain. Levy, hoping to extract £40 million from the deal – an offer which Chelsea had previously made – had to settle for something closer to £30 million, a stuttered start to the season off the back of missed transfers, and a flimsy, if non-existent “partnership” with Real Madrid.
It took Modric significantly longer to settle in the Spanish capital, initially branded the worst transfer of the summer of 2012. For Bale, it only really took a few weeks in the team. He’s clearly not at 100 per cent fitness, but he’s much, much further along than he was when he turned up at the Bernabeu on September 1st.
He was excellent in Madrid’s win 7-3 win over Sevilla – a game where “demolition” isn’t an accurate portrayal of a game where both sides had equal opportunities. Bale, starting from the right, scored twice and added two more. One was for Cristiano Ronaldo, with whom he has struck a positive relationship.
On the other side of the table, Levy is witnessing a struggle for both his manager and his new recruits. Andre Villas-Boas doesn’t have Bale to turn matches around. He himself has been involved in fiery exchanges with the media for multiple reasons this season, while the poor displays of the team and the lack of results have raised questions about his future with the club.
Bale’s transfer, in comparison, has been much easier than those who went to White Hart Lane as part of the master plan to replicate or even better his success.
He’s slotted into a team where he hasn’t needed to be the central figure. Even in the absence of Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria has been outstanding, Isco too, and Xabi Alonso continues to prove just how important he is to this team. Real Madrid’s run of form, six wins from their last seven, is also owed to the revival of Karim Benzema.
But Bale still has work to do. He doesn’t play a part in the build up. Those trademark runs at opposition defences have been absent. Yes, he isn’t 100 per cent fit, but the point is more is yet to come and importantly more is expected of him.
For now, it’s clear who has taken the upper hand in this second battle between Tottenham and Real Madrid.