Will Gareth bail on Tottenham?

Posted by Rob Train

Poor old Jose Callejon. If Real Madrid fans wish to find a stick with which to beat Jose Mourinho, they won't find one in the form of the Andalusian winger who was brought back to the club from Espanyol on the Portuguese's watch.

Much has been made of the lack of Castilla graduates in the Real first team, but Mourinho was at pains to point out he handed debuts to as many as he feasibly could and had prevented the sale of Alvaro Morata. In the case of Callejon, Mourinho gradually bedded him in as a first-team regular.

- Fitch: What price is right for Bale?
- Perez: Bale 'born to play for Real'
- Bale yet to open Spurs talks

- Suarez transfer talk - Press Pass

So it seems a little unfair on the 26-year-old winger that he has become a mere suffix in the past couple of weeks. Callejon's name has been tacked on to the sum of €20 million twice in the last week, as Real's reported interest in Isco and Luis Suarez came to light.

In the case of the latter, things are moving rather more swiftly than is the norm. Suarez has confirmed he wants to leave Liverpool, largely because of what he perceives as victimization by the British press. He's going to love the Spanish news hounds then... now it seems that the possibility of the Uruguayan becoming the first major signing of the summer is quite high.

Although Suarez is a fine player and a suitably well-known name, Real has its sights set considerably higher. Florentino Perez announced on Friday that he will be running for club president again this month, and at the moment it seems nobody has either the money or the cojones to launch a challenge. Perez is basically a shoo-in for the gig, but he knows better than anybody that assuming the job comes with responsibilities -- namely to present a world-class player or two to the Bernabeu before the new season kicks off.

There are likely to be a raft of departures in the summer: Gonzalo Higuain is apparently close to joining Juve, Fabio Coentrao wants out, Xabi Alonso's contract situation has not been resolved, Callejon is being hawked about with all the dignity of a free piece of chewing gum chucked into a shopping bag as an afterthought in the local store ... the list goes on.

Meanwhile, Real's first choice to replace Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, has become a slightly harder target after it was confirmed Leonardo, who PSG had lined up to move downstairs to replace the Italian, faces a nine-month touchline ban for shoving a referee. Bad news for Kaka. Jupp Heynckes is also in the frame but Perez knows he needs a marquee signing to draw a line under the Mourinho era and herald a new dawn in the capital.

Enter Gareth Bale. The Tottenham winger fits the bill perfectly, and Perez started the traditional tapping up of a Premier League player this week by stating Bale was "born to play for Real Madrid." Zinedine Zidane noted that Bale would fit perfectly into the type of star mold required at Real Madrid. High praise indeed.

Bale's agent, drooling over his 10 percent no doubt, claimed the Welshman is "better than Neymar" and said an offer from Real Madrid would certainly be entertained. "Bale is a better player than Neymar and he's demonstrated it in one of the best leagues in the world," Barnett said. "I would imagine clubs want him not just because they missed out on Neymar but because of how good he is. He should be the first option, we'll see . . . . Bale is worth more than Neymar," said Jonathan Barnett.

It is worth comparing Bale's and Suarez's scoring record this season: the Uruguayan, a striker, scored 23 Premier League goals. Bale, a winger, netted 21. The Welshman has blistering pace, a dynamite-packed left boot and extraordinary balance, making him extremely difficult to stop. Rather like Cristiano Ronaldo, which is the only point that does not quite add up in Real's pursuit of Bale. Where do they intend to play him?

The other stumbling block in one Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman who hold a first-class honors degree from Cambridge University. Those are not easy to come by and neither is a comfortable deal with the notoriously tough negotiator. Luka Modric was eventually lured last summer but not before Levy has extracted a "working partnership" from the Bernabeu that linked coaching, commercial and playing interests between the clubs.

And that is exactly why this deal is likely to happen, especially with Spurs in the market for a new forward. Levy has said that it will take a world-record fee to land Bale, and Perez will not hesitate in order to shore up his position. Spanish sports newspaper AS amusingly reported the Daily Star had mentioned a fee of 70 million on Thursday, as if the Star was worth the paper it was written on. But the fee sounds about right. It probably won't take smashing the record amount paid to bring Ronaldo to the Bernabeu, but it won't be far off.

Real also has a fair few makeweights to dangle in front of Levy. Higuain, Callejon and 60 million? Alonso? Karim Benzema? Coentrao? Spurs can take their pick.

But what of Bale? Is it the right move for the player? In all probability, it is the only move that makes sense. Levy would rather saw off his own foot than sell Bale to a Premier League rival. Italy is a fading force, despite the eternal allure of Milan. Bayern? Arguably they don't need much at the moment, with Mario Goetze already added to the European champion and Robert Lewandowski probably on the way. Barcelona? Bale doesn't really fit the system and Neymar has already emptied the Camp Nou coffers until some deadwood is shifted.

Real Madrid and Gareth Bale is a perfect fit, even it would mean playing either Ronaldo or the Tottenham winger out of their customary position. Expect Suarez to arrive soon. Expect the Bale saga to rumble on all summer, but Perez is persistent and Levy, despite his hardball tactics, always has his price.

ESPN Conversations