André Villas-Boas has strongly denied that Gareth Bale is on the verge of joining Real Madrid, insisting that the only contact Tottenham Hotspur have had with the Spanish giants amounted to letting them know the Welshman is not for sale.
Although reports in Spain over the weekend suggested a world record ¤100m (£86.3m) deal was close to being finalised for Bale, who is desperate for Tottenham to allow him to make his dream move to the Bernabéu, Villas-Boas continues to maintain that the 24-year-old figures heavily in his plans for the coming season. He was also critical of his Real counterpart, Carlo Ancelotti, for making the talks between the two clubs public.
"I think the rumours that anything is imminent are not true," the Spurs manager said. "We've allowed ourselves conversations with Real Madrid, confirmed by their coach, I think, wrongly, but the only thing we've communicated is that the player is our player and not for sale."
It has been made clear that Bale, who was missing as a makeshift Tottenham side lost 5-2 in a friendly at Monaco on Saturday, wishes to leave White Hart Lane and the club's position is weakened by their inability to offer a player regarded as one of the best in the world Champions League football after they finished fifth last season. Bale, however, has been frustrated by Tottenham's refusal to budge, with the chairman, Daniel Levy, proving as hard-nosed as ever.
Although there is a straight cash offer on the table from Real, who are willing to break the transfer record they set when they bought Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for £80m in 2009, Levy is a tough negotiator and he wants to see how much he can squeeze out of Real's chairman, Florentino Pérez.
There is a possibility of Real sweetening any deal by sending players in the opposite direction. Tottenham have expressed an interest in taking the highly rated 20-year-old striker Alvaro Morata, although Real do not want to lose him, and Villas-Boas is also an admirer of the Portuguese left-back Fabio Coentrão. Angel di María has also been put forward by Real.
Levy, who sold Luka Modric to Real last year, is aware that time is on his side and he is in no hurry to cave in. He has experienced his fair share of transfer sagas and has a history of making clubs interested in his best players wait for as long as possible. However, the pressure from Real on Tottenham to sell Bale, whose pre-season has been disrupted by the minor glute injury which has kept him out for two and a half weeks, will surely intensify.
Villas-Boas, asked whether he thought Ancelotti was wrong to reveal the talks between the clubs, said: "I think so, in my opinion. Carlo is a person I appreciate a lot and we have great respect for each other but, bearing in mind this situation, they have decided to make it public. Normally in situations like this in England it is scrutinised by the [Football Association] with lots of care and attention. We have seen lots of people speak about a player that is not theirs and we are due some respect.
"There are conversations because there is big, big respect between the clubs, bearing in mind the transfer last year [of Modric] and the agreement last year of goodwill between the clubs. At the moment we are following from those instructions.
"But of the player, bearing in mind the investment you have seen at Tottenham recently, he is a player who is decisive for us. We are building a very strong team and we are building for a future with Gareth.
"In football anything is possible but what we have communicated so far is that we are not willing to concede to their interest in the player."
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image: © Vladimir Maiorov