Bale future enters endgame as Madrid make move

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

You always wondered what the "special relationship" would be between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur after the English club allowed Luka Modric a move to the Spanish capital for 33 million pounds last summer.

Spurs made special mention of a partnership agreement that would see "two clubs working together in respect of players, coaching, best practises and commercial relationship" as part of Modric's move to the Bernabeu.

It was a strange announcement at the time, and 12 months on little, if any, evidence has been forthcoming as to what the deal has actually done for either club. Has there been any working together on the commercial side of things? Or swapping ideas of "best practice?" What about the coaching side of things -- has there been any link between the clubs in that respect?

-Real bid 100 million euros for 'unsettled' Bale
-Crace: An offer Spurs can't refuse
-Madrid defeat PSG in friendly

We shouldn't have wondered at all, really. Spurs got some positive publicity for seemingly linking up with one of the biggest, if not the biggest, clubs in world football. Madrid kept their foot in the door for the services of Gareth Bale, a player they have long been tracking and who, over the past season, has become their No. 1 target.

Now that foot in the door is seemingly edging it wider open, with Madrid going for the jugular. A world-record 100 million-euro offer for the Welshman, an offer that, according to reports this weekend, has been turned down by Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.

It's been the transfer story of the summer, despite big spending on players such as Isco and Asier Illarramendi at the Bernabeu. Despite Neymar's big-money move to Barcelona, and despite the transfer of Gonzalo Higuain from Madrid to Napoli, Bale has grabbed most of the column inches in England and in Spain, and it always seemed a case of "if" and not "when."

With the new season edging closer, it seemed as if Bale, who swept up the player awards in the Premier League last season thanks to his best campaign yet, would spend another season in North London. Madrid had to get their man but, as with Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United, it looked as though the best solution for all parties would be to allow Bale another season at White Hart Lane to help Spurs back into the Champions League before a departure to the Bernabeu.

Only days ago, reports in England suggested Spurs were ready to improve Bale's contract in light of the interest from Spain. That would pay the Welshman well, keep him at Spurs and make Madrid break the bank for his services next summer -- something they would do, with the club wanting Bale at all costs.

Levy and Tottenham may have been keen to emphasise the partnership between the clubs following Modric's sale, but any partnership that was in place could well be smashed to pieces the way Bale's future is heading.

Zinedine Zidane, Madrid's director of football, has made no secret of Bale being at the top of Madrid's wanted list. His move to make that public only acted to put pressure on Spurs and, of course, it was intended. To be wanted by a club the size of Madrid is huge for Bale, and to have Zidane, one of the best midfielders the game has seen, leading the calls for him to grace the Bernabeu only acted as icing on an enticing cake.

“I think Real Madrid have made their admiration of Gareth Bale very clear -- and it has been made clear that we would not be put off by the cost of the player," said the Frenchman, who also added a line about Bale pushing Spurs for a move away if a deal was to come off. “But if Gareth feels now is the time to move, then he has to have a private discussion with his club and express that he wants to leave.”

Nice work, Zizou, for Madrid at least. Reports in England now suggest Bale is desperate to leave Tottenham and has been left frustrated at Levy's rejection of Madrid's 100 million-euro offer.

Levy is known to be a tough businessman. But if reports are true that he has rejected Madrid's huge offer, Los Blancos shouldn't have to up the ante that much if they do want Bale this summer.

The former Southampton man has come on leaps and bounds in the past couple of seasons at White Hart Lane, but Spurs were almost ready to part company with the player back in January 2009 when second-tier side Nottingham Forest were preparing a 3 million-pound bid for him after he struggled to adapt to the Premier League with Spurs following his move from Southampton.

Spurs gave him one more chance, and the rest is history. A hat trick in the Champions League at Inter Milan propelled Bale to the world stage and the left-footer continues to go from strength to strength. But a 100 million-euro offer from Madrid is one, clearly, that should not be sniffed at by Spurs given it exceeds the amount Madrid splashed on Ronaldo.

If Zidane's comments helped Bale inform Spurs of his desire to join the Spanish giants, however, it also made Levy well aware that Madrid were desperate to get their man, and well aware that money would be no object. To turn down Madrid's huge offer may seem ridiculous, but it should help Spurs get an extra few million added to the deal. Los Blancos have come so far that they are not going to let an extra 5 million pounds or so get in the way of the deal of the summer.

If the move does go through -- and the advancements over the weekend seem to suggest Madrid wants to get the deal done now, rather than waiting until next summer -- it will provide a huge boost for Los Blancos and a huge sign of intent for the year ahead.

In an offseason when Florentino Perez has been welcoming the top young Spanish talent to the Bernabeu, albeit for a hefty sum, you always wondered if a big, big-name signing -- a Galactico -- would be forthcoming. Madrid had missed out on Neymar to their archrivals Barcelona, while Edinson Cavani, another reported target, moved to Paris Saint-Germain. With Bale seemingly set to stay at Spurs for another year it looked be a relatively quiet year on the transfer front at the Bernabeu.

Now it seems Madrid has been saving the best until last. Perhaps seeing their finances boosted by the sale of Higuain to Napoli was a trigger to go out and get Bale. Let the games begin.

The column inches, on this blog and elsewhere, have been vast over Bale's future. Not just over whether or not he'll make the move, but just where he'll fit into Carlo Ancelotti's team, with Ronaldo favouring a starting role on the left, where Bale has made a name for himself. How would Madrid accommodate him and keep Cristiano a happy bunny?

The Portuguese star favours a starting role on the left-hand side, a position he's excelled in in recent seasons, and a position that Bale has excelled in, too. Ancelotti has tried Ronaldo in a No. 9 role in preseason friendlies, but the former Manchester United man does not enjoy playing there, nor is it his best position.

More likely is that Ronaldo will continue as he has been doing, either in the "regular" 4-2-3-1 formation or an Ancelotti-abridged version. Last season, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas gave Bale more freedom to roam, especially down the centre of the pitch, and he enjoyed his best season yet. It showed he's versatile, and if the Welshman can play there, why can't he play down the right, too?

If Bale does become Madrid's latest Galactico, Los Blancos will have an embarrassment of attacking riches. The signing of Isco provides Ancelotti with another option, while Mesut Ozil has made playing off the front man on his own in recent seasons. Angel di Maria also remains at the club and, although not hitting his expected heights last season, can add plenty of threat going forward. Let's not forget about Kaka, either, a piece Ancelotti knows very well from their time together at Milan.

It seems the transfer story of the summer is entering its endgame. Fasten your seat belts.


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