One week...two players...and two very different outcomes.
On Friday 25 May 2007, Tottenham Hotspur signed Gareth Bale from Southampton for an initial fee of just £5million. That the amount could one day double may have appeared a risk at the time. But in hindsight, bargains don’t come much better than that.
On Thursday 31 May 2007, having missed out on Bale despite his best efforts, Sir Alex Ferguson signed Nani from Sporting Lisbon for a fee believed to ultimately exceed £20million.
In the initial aftermath of the signings, Manchester United’s generated considerably more column inches than Tottenham’s, in part because the Portuguese was half of a double swoop along with Porto’s Anderson.
When Bale’s Spurs career began with a series of injuries and a complete absence of league victories, it seemed Ferguson had missed out on something of a jinxed young man.
That Bale failed to taste success in any of his first 24 Premier League appearances seems inexplicable now, but that was the case. If he played, Tottenham invariably missed out on three points.
And yet almost exactly six years since Bale and Nani moved to their current clubs, their stories are markedly different – and not in the way many would have predicted back then.
When the world record transfer fee is next exceeded, it will almost inevitably be spent on Bale. In contrast, Nani has recently been the subject of an unsuccessful bid of just £6million from Galatasaray. United are said to be holding out for £8million.
In many ways it shouldn’t have been like this. Not for Nani at least. His talent is undeniable; its sporadic presence frustrating in the extreme. But in the last year of his contract, it seems he is leaving United with plenty of medals but a complete lack of consistency.
Whoever signs him will be getting a great footballer. Whether he can be a great player remains to be seen.
And while every day brings new headlines of Bale’s impending departure, to Real Madrid or whichever free-spending rival has been pulled out of the transfer-tombola, the simple fact is he has blossomed at White Hart Lane. He arrived as a boy who couldn’t buy a victory, but is now a man who single-handedly inspires them.
Six years ago, Tottenham made one of the best signings in living memory. That they will do anything in their power to keep him, while United are naming Nani’s price, says everything about what has happened since that week.
How do you feel about the fact that Nani cost twice as much as Bale? And what does the future hold for both players?
image: © James Boyes