Ozil departure taints Bale arrival for Madrid

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

There are various ways to bury bad news, and Real Madrid opted for the do-it-after-signing-the-most-expensive-player-in-the-world option on transfer deadline day.

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At Monday lunchtime, about 30,000 Madridistas gathered at the Bernabeu to welcome Gareth Bale to the Spanish capital -- at last -- for a world-record £85.3 million deal. Smiles all around. Yet just hours later, the arrival of the Welsh wing wizard was tainted, for plenty of Madrid fans at least, by the news of Mesut Ozil's departure to Arsenal come Monday night.

Regardless of the fee, Bale's arrival will undoubtedly boost Madrid's attacking options, but in the departure of German international and assist ace Ozil, Madrid has lost a key weapon in its artillery (no Gunners-related puns of any kind intended there).

Madrid fans should not kid themselves -- there was always going to be a sacrifice in personnel given the impressive bolstering that's happened over the summer, and which culminated in the unveiling of Bale after months of waiting. The arrival of the former Tottenham Hotspur man has added to an already embarrassing amount of quality in the middle of the park for Los Blancos.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel di Maria, Ozil and Luka Modric all provided attacking threat while Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso provided the steel and orchestration. The addition of Isco, Asier Illarramendi, Casemiro and now Bale, meant something had to give, and Ozil has been the man to make way.

From a purely financial point of view, Madrid has made almost half of Bale's transfer fee back from the sale of the 24-year-old to the Gunners. A fee of more than £42 million, a club record for Arsenal and the second-biggest transfer fee splashed in the Premier League after the move of Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Chelsea, has been reported. That will do very nicely for a club that has been questioned over splashing out so much on a player who, by the admission of most, has enjoyed only one superb season in the Premier League.

President Florentino Perez is not going to keep Bale on the bench. A €100 million bench-warmer is hard to imagine. Talisman Cristiano Ronaldo will be the first name down on the team-sheet. If not on Ancelotti's, then certainly on that of Perez. And the performances of Isco in his opening three La Liga matches in the all-white have all but cemented his place in the starting lineup. Goals, flair, a steely determination and a fans' favourite -- just three matches in. Luka Modric has shone, too - Ancelotti has hinted at his favourites already this season.

Ozil looked likely to stay, but while Bale's switch to the Spanish capital seemed to drag on for an eternity, the German's departure seemed to happen almost literally overnight. "Things develop differently" as Ozil put it in his goodbye message to Madrid supporters. Indeed they do.

A whopping 47 assists in three seasons at the Bernabeu will be hard to replace. Ozil has contributed 72 assists in his past five seasons, up there with the best, if not the best, in Europe. While Madrid looked to rely on Kaka, another player to have parted company in favour of a move back to AC Milan on Monday, to offer the back-up, and indeed shine alongside, Cristiano Ronaldo, it was actually Ozil who surprised many by taking on that mantle when he arrived three seasons ago. Superb vision, a deft touch and a sublime pass -- one that rarely had his targeted teammate adjusting to control -- Ozil had qualities suited to the Bernabeu.

When Ronaldo wasn't firing on all cylinders, Madrid looked to Ozil, and that search rarely went unnoticed. As with all players, he had his off days, which were very much noted by Jose Mourinho at the start of last season, but for the most part Ozil was a sublime No. 10, all you ever wanted from a player in that position. That role seems to have been taken by Madrid's new shining star, Isco, and Ozil was no longer needed.

His absence will leave a big gap in Madrid's attack, and only time will tell if Bale, and more so Isco, will plug the gap. Madrid's loss will very much be Arsenal's gain. The Gunners do not often splash the cash, and to break a club-record fee to snap up the former Madrid man shows just how highly Arsene Wenger rates him.

If Ozil's departure was an unwanted shock, Kaka's certainly wasn't. A move back to AC Milan, the club with which he won the Ballon d'Or, on a free transfer was completed on Monday. It brought the Brazilian's frustrating and disappointing spell at the Bernabeu to an end just in time to get back into his stride before the World Cup in his homeland next summer.

The fee may have surprised a few -- Madrid signed Kaka for €62 million and let him go for nothing. The desire was always to get the 30-year-old off the wage bill, however, and Madrid managed that after the player came out after Thursday's friendly game in Deportivo and said he was looking to leave.

It's safe to say Kaka, unfortunately, didn't reach the heights many hoped for him at the Bernabeu, and on the day Bale smashed the world transfer fee, Madridistas will be hoping the Welshman is not another big-money flop.

As the frantic, and some might say farcical, window edged ever closer to slamming shut, reports suggested Manchester United tried one late effort to prize Fabio Coentrao away from the Bernabeu on a season-long loan. The Portuguese full-back was one of the favourites to move on a matter of weeks ago, with Tottenham appearing to be front-runners, but Ancelotti reported over the weekend that the player had a change of heart over his immediate future and was to stay in Madrid. United's offer, seemingly, was too late -- if not for the transfer deadline then for Madrid's hopes to plug the gap with Granada's Brazilian full-back Guilherme Siqueira.

Ozil disappointment aside, Madrid now knows the players it has at its disposal (up until the New Year at least), but Madridistas will have to wait at least a fortnight until they see Bale in any action, with the international matches taking priority this weekend. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.


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