The transfer saga surrounding Gareth Bale’s move away from Real Madrid rolls into its umpteenth week, and we’re still no clearer on where he is actually going, or if he even goes anywhere.
First it was Manchester United, then it was Liverpool, then it was Manchester United again, then it was a return to Tottenham, and then it was Manchester United, and now it’s…Bayern, perhaps? A reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus? China, where he will become the highest paid man in history on £5m per week?
We don’t know much for certain, but we do know that the 29-year-old is having a bit of a rough time of it in the Spanish capital. He’s struggled here and there with injury, he hasn’t been playing particularly well, and his relationship with the fans has reached breaking point. Boos and whistles ring out around the Bernabeu every time he takes a touch and doesn’t score with it, and he doesn’t look as if he is coping well with the hostility at all.
We also know, beyond reasonable doubt, that Real Madrid are bracing for a squad overhaul in the summer. Having gone 12 whole months without a trophy, Zinedine Zidane is back with a vengeance, and they are prepared to spend anywhere between £300m and £1.7bn on however many players it takes to bring the glory back to the Bernabeu. In order to do so, they will surely have to offload a few players.
Put that together, and it is a reasonable assumption that Bale will be one of those marked for sale. That logic supports the word from various reports, and it does seem as if his days in La Liga, having scored over 100 goals and lifted a multitude of trophies, are coming to an end.
The logical train of thought stops in its tracks, however, when you get to the fee that is being touted around to secure his services. Madrid are reported to be after as much as €130m before they will let him go, which is just a bit ludicrous.
Of course, that could just be a fee that is plucked out of thin air by a tabloid that somehow made it into circulation, but it does seem to originate from a pretty detailed, sensible-looking report from Spain…so let’s assume for now that there is some element of truth in it, and deliberate on just now insane that fee is.
If they are genuinely hoping to secure that sort of fee, then they are more nuts than we ever thought they were to start with, and that, in itself, was at the Snickers end of the spectrum. That’s highlighted by a quick rundown of the clubs who would realistically be interested.
The Premier League is where the money is, and that’s where he has been most heavily linked, so let’s start there.
Manchester City tend to favour younger attackers, and unless there are some serious outgoings in their attacking third – Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva all regularly feature in wide positions – it’s not even clear where Bale would get in. For a fraction of the price, you could see it, but upwards of £100m for a guy approaching his 30s and isn’t an obvious long-term upgrade? Unlikely.
He doesn’t even come close to fitting Liverpool’s signing M.O. under Jurgen Klopp, so they’re effectively ruled out unless we see something astonishingly mad happening. Neither Arsenal or Spurs really have the financial muscle for that sort of fee, while Chelsea can’t sign anyone owing to their transfer ban.
That leaves Manchester United in England. It seemed plausible a year ago, but with the renovation job they are looking at now under the guidance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, putting all of their eggs in one basket with Bale would be a step in the wrong direction.
Unless they decide to be pretty irresponsible, it doesn’t look like a goer.
In Europe, you’ve got Bayern, who are a slightly more realistic option than United, but they’re facing a similar rebuilding job, with the likes of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery needing replaced with younger players. A move for Bale, while just about achieving that, would be similarly risky and unprofitable at that price.
PSG? You could just about see it, but forking out a similar fee for Bale to what they did for Kylian Mbappe a year ago would sting.
None of those teams, realistically, are going to shell out what Real are seemingly demanding. Juventus certainly won’t. They signed Cristiano Ronaldo, best player in the world Cristiano Ronaldo, Champions League all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, for less than the fee being touted for Bale, which only further highlights just how ridiculous, blind, and unattainable that €130m is.
Even taking inflation into account, the guys that have historically gone for the money we’re talking here have been one of two things. They have either been exceptionally promising – the likes of Ousmane Dembele, who tore the Bundesliga to shreds as a teenager – or they have been one of the best in the world on both form and ability at the time; like Neymar, or Paul Pogba.
Bale fell into both categories when he moved to Madrid for €100m six years ago. Bale, now, with eight La Liga goals this season, hits neither.
Let’s not kid ourselves on, then. Unless someone has a spectacular lapse of judgement, he’ll either stay and fight for his place as a Galactico, or he’ll go for the €70m-ish fee his ability probably merits in today’s market. €130m, or anything else north of the £100m barrier, is just not happening.