Gareth Bale is reportedly on the verge of making his record-breaking move from Tottenham to Real Madrid and whilst the Spanish giants are willing to put £86 million on the line, is the Welshman taking a big risk himself?
The 24-year-old Welshman arrived at White Hart Lane in 2007 from Southampton at the tender age of 18 and was initially deployed as a left-back until he was converted by former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp into a winger.
He made just 8 Premier League appearances for Spurs in his first season and failed to impress initially but just two seasons later he was a regular first-team starter in Redknapp’s side.
He featured for Spurs in the Champions League in 2010/11 and earned himself attention across the continent for his dazzling displays against Inter Milan and AC Milan. Bale scored 11 goals in all competitions that season and 12 overall for Spurs in 2011/12 but last term he earned himself the PFA and PWA Player of the Year awards for his sensational 26 goals in all competitions.
Under new boss Andre Villas-Boas, Bale has developed to become the most coveted footballer on the continent – he has been compared to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo who may well be his teammate in the near-future.
But, after all his hard work and application at Tottenham, where is undoubtedly the star of the show, does he gamble with his career is he moves to the Bernabeu this summer?
When Ronaldo moved to the Spanish capital from Manchester United in 2009, breaking the world record fee, he too was 24 years of age but Ronaldo had already featured almost 300 times for United, won three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and the Champions League as well as featuring at international level for Portugal in a World Cup and the European Championships.
Ronaldo’s experience at the highest level was sufficient enough that moving to from the Theatre of Dreams at Old Trafford to the Bernabeu for a word-record fee was not too much pressure for him to handle; he was ready.
Whilst Gareth Bale is one of the most talented footballers in the world, Spanish football is very different from English football in almost every sense – the atmosphere is different, the league is different, the expectations are different, the style is different, the officiating is different and obviously he’ll need to adapt not only to a new team, new manager and new role on the pitch but also to a whole new way of life in Spain.
He is not necessarily going to be the ‘star’ in Madrid either – Los Blancos have Ronaldo, they have (for now at least) Mesut Ozil, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria, Kaka, and they’ve just bought Isco. The fans are used to having the best footballers in the world at the Bernabeu and they expect them to perform at that level, instantly and consistently.
Names like Santiago Bernabeu himself, Raul, Zinadine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham, and Luis Figo have made their names at Real Madrid but names like Michael Owen, Jonathan Woodgate, Walter Samuel, Emerson, Nicolas Anelka, and Royston Drenthe have failed to make the grade.
Even Bale’s former Spurs teammate Luka Modric was considered the club’s worst signing of last summer. The environmental pressures are far greater in La Liga too – there are only really two teams in contention for the title every year and the expectation of excellence far exceeds that of the Premier League.
Gareth Bale has never performed in a World Cup finals or European Championships, he’s never won a title, he’s just had his best season in a Spurs shirt last term but, prior to that, he was nowhere near ‘world-class’. Ronaldo had been scoring between 20 and 50 goals a season for United for three consecutive seasons prior to his move, nowadays he scores in excess of 50 goals a season.
Gareth Bale is going to have to match that level of form, fitness and consistency due to the fact his price-tag is going to be higher – I just wonder whether he’s ready for that level of pressure, scrutiny and I also have reservations whether he will ever be at the level of Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. For that kind of money, he’s going to have to be the best player in the world and I’m not sure he’s capable of that.