Bale-mania has reached epic proportions at times this season. Perhaps unlike the 1960’s Beatle mania, the Welsh wizard does not have a legion of female fans stalking his every move and fainting at will upon seeing him in the flesh, but similar to the Obama mania of 2008, there are now various t-shirts and paraphernalia available to budding Spurs fans or followers to the Wales national team should they wish to cover their body in tributary images of the Tottenham man.
It’s not simply his excellent record of 16 goals in 26 appearances that has created such a widespread attraction, but rather the aesthetic qualities in Bales locker that captures the imagination of football fans around the world. His physique and athleticism make him incredibly explosive, bursting into life from seemingly static positions to take on defenders and often gallop past his opponents with ease, and furthermore his technique and control has lead to Bale unleashing some unstoppable and seemingly impossible strikes that are destined to send ripples into the back of the net from the moment the ball leaves his boot.
But there’s no doubt that the White Hart Lane star’s due attention has been further heightened by the constant news reports and transfer speculation rumouring a summer move to La Liga. The Spanish league is currently home to the world’s two leading footballers that are undisputedly considered as being truly world class; Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The on-going debate of whether Bale is in the same category as Ronaldo and Messi has on the whole come to the conclusion that if he’s not already, the Wales international will be in the very near future.
Gareth Bale may be a very talented footballer, but there is something very English about his manner of play, based around the effectiveness of simplicity combined with his unparalleled athleticism, that seems adverse to the Barcelona mould. And thus, out of the two Spanish giants of European football, it appears that Real Madrid are on the whole the much more likely club to make an offer for the Tottenham winger at the end of the season.
Yet, would moving to the Bernabeu actually represent the best move for Bale? Is there not a danger that being himself swept up by Bale-mania, the Welshman could be rather blindly going with the flow, without considering all the options and possible outcomes?
Of course, signing for Real Madrid is an achievement in itself, and is the kind of personal accolade that the vast majority of footballers on the planet can only dream of; it would certainly take a brave man to turn them down without having an equally prestigious alternative club to turn them down for.
Similarly, at Tottenham, although Bale’s rise in stock has coincided with the North London club reaching the next level in terms of domestic football, and looking set to finish inside of the top four, with the possibility of ending up in third place come the final day of the current Premier League season, actual chances of picking up silver wear will always be limited to the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Europa League.
Spurs may have come on leaps and bounds since the days of having Michael Brown in midfield and Paul Stalteri at right back, but they’re still a long way off getting their hands on the Premier League title for the first time, and even further from lifting the Champions League trophy – two feats that should be achievable for a player of Bale’s quality.
Comparisons have been made between Bale’s recent accentuation to continental recognition with the career of Cristiano Ronaldo. After perfecting his trade at Manchester United, the Portuguese winger left Old Trafford at the age of 24, and similarly, should Bale depart in the summer, he would be the same age. But there are still some stark differences to consider.
Firstly, Ronaldo left with three Premier League titles under his belt, in addition to an FA Cup and lifting the Champions League trophy. The Tottenham man may have played a bit-part role in the club’s successes in the League Cup back in 2008, but it is hardly equivalent to Ronaldo’s achievements by the time he had departed for Spain.
Secondly, unlike Bale, who’s always performed well for Spurs but is finally amid a real coming of age campaign, Ronaldo had been regularly scoring over 15 goals per season for three years prior to joining Real Madrid.
But there is no doubt that their physical styles are incredibly similar. Whilst Lionel Messi may be the more gifted in terms of natural footballing ability, Ronaldo has complimented his exceptional skill by becoming an impeccable physical specimen and the perfect athlete. It is well known that Bale idolises the Portguese star, and in many ways has based his game around Ronaldo’s. Furthermore, although I do believe losing the Welsh wonder would be a huge loss to the English game, the prospect of seeing Bale and Ronaldo operating on opposite flanks leaves me watering at the mouth.
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However, I still have my concerns. Unlike Ronaldo, the Tottenham man is a far more timid personality; he frequently returns home to visit his parents, and is rarely out-spoken. In fact, in his very few discussions with the press, I have only once witnessed him come out and speak in protest about his negative stigmatism of being a rather theatrical diver, despite often being condemned and criticised by the British media.
Furthermore, and most importantly, it appears football has not learned its lesson from the Fernando Torres saga. I have little doubt that the hefty £50million price tag, which Bale’s future fee is set to beat by up to an additional £20million, was the underlying factor in the Spaniard’s demise from being one of Europe’s top strikers to becoming one of the biggest transfer flops of all time.
A £70million deal would be a huge cross to bear, and it’s not as if there’s an instant spot waiting for him in the starting line-up at the Bernabeu. The natural assumption would be that Ronaldo would be moved over to the right flank, yet it would be a bold move for the next Real Madrid boss to shaft Angel Di Maria as he’s been a consistent performer since moving to Spain, and this season has four goals and nine assists in 23 La Liga appearances.
Former team-mate of Bale, Luka Modric, has been suffering from such a problem this season, as he’s struggled for game time whilst Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil have been consistently impressive in the middle of the park.
Of course, the move may not go ahead, but I doubt Gareth Bale would turn down signing for the Spanish champions instead continue his tenure at White Hart Lane. Then again, staying put could severely benefit his career in the long run. I can understand the association between the Welshman and Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of the way they play, but seeing the latter’s career as a template for the former is a false comparison.
Ronaldo was a cocky, confident and outspoken player, who was a big fish in an big pond at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Bale is a big fish in a comparatively smaller pond at Tottenham. I have no doubt that he has the potential to be world class, and in that same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo; I’m just unsure whether he’s ready to take the leap of faith to the next level, and if his hypothetical move to the Bernabeu goes wrong, it has the potential to scupper the rest of his career.