Show us the colour of your money, Real Madrid

Posted by John Crace

Over the past few seasons, Spurs have rather looked like they were playing catch-up in the transfer market, holding out too long for nonexistent bargains and failing to fill key positions as a result. But credit where credit is due: Whether Gareth Bale moves to Real Madrid or stays at White Hart Lane, Tottenham's management team has played a blinder over this particular transfer saga.

First the facts. Some Spurs fans have refused to countenance the possibility that the Welshman wants to leave the club and have put down every rumour to mischief-making by unreliable reporters with too much space to fill. Untrue. The speculation may have been overdone at times, but Bale does want to leave. His head may have been turned both by his agent and by the sweet-talking from the Bernabeu, but it has been turned. He believes his time has come to cash in. In simple financial terms, he is absolutely right. His price may never be as high again. Daniel Levy and the Spurs board haven't been playing some imaginary game of high-stakes poker with their biggest asset. It's been the real deal throughout, and they've won almost every hand.

- Rigg: Bale saga rumbles on
- Madrid chief: €100m a lot for Bale
- Gareth Bale could cost £200m

Critical to this has been the signings of Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Roberto Soldado. For once, Spurs have moved relatively early in the transfer market, and it's kept them well ahead of the game. Not just because the squad has had time to settle in and get to know one another, but because it has meant that Levy couldn't be put under any pressure by Real Madrid as Spurs already had a far stronger squad than the previous season, regardless of whether Bale stayed.

Sure, the squad would be better with Bale on it -- and everyone connected with Spurs would rather the Welshman stayed -- but it's perfectly strong enough. Spurs didn't need to worry about Bale leaving the club near transfer deadline day followed by a last-minute scrabble for a few replacements, because the replacements had already been found.

All of this meant that Levy could hold out for exactly what he wanted. Predictably, he has chosen to play hardball and hold out for £100 million, but the real genius in the proceedings has been the Spurs director, Sir Keith Mills, who earlier this week said: "We very much want Bale to stay, but if a player is desperate to leave, it's very difficult to force him to stay. We've seen it in other clubs. Even if he has a contract, you can't force somebody to play for you."

How much more gracious can you get? "We're not stopping a player going anywhere." It's the first time in decades that Spurs have appeared utterly reasonable in a transfer negotiation.

No wonder Real Madrid are looking somewhat wrong-footed. They are now the party that has to put up or shut up. Spurs' position is utterly clear. The club wants Bale to stay but won't be obstructive if he really wants to go and Real pay the going rate.

Bale wants to go, so it's up to the Spanish club to find the cash. Not some long-term installment plan -- Real still haven't finished paying off Spurs for Luka Modric -- but real money. Or real money and a prized asset, such as their 20-year-old striker Alvaro Morata. If Real's first offer was £85 million -- an absurdly high figure, but they chose to offer it -- why wouldn't Levy test their resolve to see if a second, even more absurdly high figure will be forthcoming?

The other piece of brilliance in Mills' remarks is the pressure it puts on Bale. He can't moan to anyone that he's being forced to stay at the club against his will. Spurs have taken the moral high ground. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

What's more, Bale is going to have to be gracious from now on. He can't afford to have a Modric-style sulk. Modric could get away with it because he had nothing really invested in Spurs or the U.K. Bale does. Part of his appeal has been the way he has actively engaged with the Spurs fans, and even if he does go to Madrid at some point, he will eventually come back to live in the U.K.

So he doesn't want to get a reputation for being a bit of a prima donna. He's made his case to leave, as he is entitled to. Now he has to knuckle down and accept whatever outcome transpires. He can't get away with too much more diva-ish "I can't play because my head isn't right" nonsense. Not least because if Spurs start looking like a winning team without him, then his value to Real might start going down rapidly.

My bet just now? I don't think Real will come up with the money. So Bale will stay, and Levy will end up smelling of roses. You would have got good odds on that particular double a fortnight ago.


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