But what can we learned from the Welshman’s departure about the transfer market?
1) Talking up is the new tapping up
Firstly, Tottenham did not want to sell Gareth Bale. He was their best player by a country mile and manager Andre Villas-Boas had begun and wanted to continue building a team around the 24-year-old midfielder.
Real Madrid desperately wanted him – after a disappointing season under Jose Mourinho, the Spaniards needed a marquee signing of world conquest proportions to compensate for their loss of the La Liga title to Barcelona and with the Catalans’ purchase of Neymar, Real Madrid were under intense pressure to make a statement of intent with a world-class signing of their own.
President Florentino Perez, director Zinadine Zidane, manager Carlo Ancelotti, the players, the press all ‘talked up’ the talent and the potential and the prestige of Gareth Bale long before an offer was on the table.
A fan poll revealed the Los Blancos faithful wanted the Spurs man above anyone else on the planet and when the people speak in the Spanish capital, their will shall be done.
Talking was just the first phase – the media take the quotes and run with them. Marca, especially, functions somewhat as a public relations medium to facilitate the agenda of the most powerful football club in Spain.
They were relentless in their pursuit of their target and their agenda was clear from the offset that they wanted to turn the players’ head – away from North London and towards the glory of the Bernabeu. Barcelona have been doing it for years - I suppose it was just funnier when it was happening to Arsenal.
2) Silence is deadly
For all the transfer sagas this summer, Bale was the most non-communicative of all. Whilst the likes of Luis Suarez and abroad Robert Lewandowski used the press to do their dirty work, Bale remained tight-lipped throughout. Suarez completely disgraced Liverpool and Lewandowski showed his true colours in Dortmund but all the while the Welshman kept his cool.
He didn’t talk to ‘friends’ in the media, he didn’t have his agent make assurances publicly, he didn’t promise the fans outcomes either way and he didn’t ‘force’ the move like Robin van Persie did last summer by making a ‘statement’ on his personal website. He was the consummate professional and a real class act up until the weekend before the move that he didn’t show up for training which, in reality, was likely just a formality to get the deal over the line.
But, for all his class and decorum this summer, it didn’t stop him leaving, it didn’t stop Madrid’s pursuit of him and it didn’t help Spurs. Silence was more effective as a means to an end than the chatterbox tactics of his counterparts at Liverpool and Dortmund. He moved, they stayed.
3) An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of prevention
Benjamin Franklin’s caveat about prevention and cure was originally stated in reference to the US economy but, with a slight alteration, it makes a perfect fit for Tottenham’s transfer business this summer.
Where, in the past, North London rivals Arsenal have tended to lose their best players and usually towards the end of the summer window, Tottenham really showed what you can do with a saga like Bale’s and how you can use it your advantage and not get your pants pulled down on deadline day.
Where Arsenal would insist the player wasn’t for sale and then go about the summer with their fingers in their ears, heads in the sand and their bums in their air, Tottenham made preparations for the inevitable.
Between Franco Baldini and Daniel Levy, they negotiated some of the most sensational swoops of the summer, leaving the fans excited about a future without Bale, rather than disillusioned, bitter and broken-hearted over his departure.
Spurs brought in seven top-class internationals for a combined £109 million around about and Villas-Boas now has a squad packed with quality and competition for places that is capable of genuinely challenging for titles for the next decade.
The club prepared for Bale’s departure better than I’ve seen any club prepare for a loss of any player and what’s more is they kept Madrid waiting long enough that, when the £86 million was handed over, Spurs had all their business done – they weren’t traipsing around on deadline day with all and sundry knowing they had £86 million in their pocket trying to make cost-effective signings. They were sensible, they had a plan and they stuck to it.
4) Add insult to injury
Bale isn’t the only player this summer who was conveniently ‘injured’ whilst being the subject of a long-protracted transfer deal. Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Yohan Cabaye, and Juan Mata were all sidelined with strange niggles and illnesses – ‘injury’ became a euphemism for ‘p***ed off’.
If a player isn’t included in the starting line-up in the weeks leading up to deadline day, we now know that means he’s the subject of interest from a club prepared to pay big money and the selling club, for all their objections, isn’t silly enough to jeopardize an £86 million deal even if it means losing to Bognor Regis, or Arsenal, for example.
5) Buyer responsibility
Finally, we learned a lot about the modern football transfer market this summer but with Bale’s record-breaking transfer, we learned that prices are only going to rise. If the inflation we see in the prices of football players was the same in everyday purchases, we’d probably be paying eighty-six quid for a pint of milk these days.
Prices go up because prices go up – when Edinson Cavani was sold to PSG for £55 million, and Radamel Falcao to Monaco for €60 million it set the tone for the summer. When Manchester City spend £30 million on Fernandinho no one is surprised (after all they did spend £25 million on Adebayor five years ago).
When the big-spending clubs which, let’s not forget Real Madrid have always been and they’ve broken more transfer records than any other club, have the resources to spend £86 million then any club with a player they want is going to wait until that kind of figure is on the table.
In my humble opinion, Tottenham have basically mugged Real Madrid or, perhaps more politely, completed the most audacious daylight robbery case in the history of football. I’m not saying Bale isn’t one of the world’s best players, but even he agrees he’s not better than Cristiano Ronaldo. I don’t even believe he’s better than Neymar, to be honest.
Real Madrid paid that because they had to – Tottenham played hardball over the deal – and Daniel Levy is one of the finest negotiators in the sport. Then, for Madrid to turn around this weekend and bemoan the price is ridiculous – if you don’t want to pay the price quoted then take your whining and go pinch someone else’s star player.
The responsibility is always on the buyer in any transaction – they are responsible of ensuring they get the best price for maximum quality, that is economy at its essence. If Bale flops in Spain that’s their problem, Tottenham are not going to give them a refund within 30 days, are they?
image: © andybrannan