Gareth Bale has spoken of the stress he endured before completing his boyhood dream move to Real Madrid.
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The 24-year-old Bale was at the heart of one of the biggest, and longest, transfer sagas of the summer which finally concluded with the former Tottenham player moving to the Spanish capital for a world record fee in the vicinity of €100 million.
But after being unveiled at the Bernabeu, the Wales international revealed the protracted negotiations between the two clubs took a heavy emotional toll.
“It was a long time. It was very stressful to say the least,” Bale told BT Sport. “I knew their interest from the start and I was always confident the move would go through but obviously the chairman Daniel Levy had to do his business and do Tottenham well so I kind of understood that.
“But at the same time, thinking of myself, it was a hard time, it was stressful and I just had to be patient and try and focus.”
However, the long wait finally ended with Bale realising a boyhood dream.
“When I was younger I had some close friends and we always loved European football and Real Madrid at that time were the dominant force and we always watched Real Madrid,” he said.
“I remember family holidays, we used to go Spain, and we'd bring back replica shirts of Real Madrid and wear them out and always pretend to be the players when we played in the park.
“It just started from there and I followed them since.
“Obviously the football they play, the team they are is amazing and it's just great to be there.”
But there were times early in his career that Bale’s dream looked likely to slip away, especially at Southampton where persistent injuries threatened to derail his potential.
However, the Saints stuck by their young player and set him on the path to stardom.
“It was quite difficult,” he said. “I had a lot of growing problems with my back which made my hamstrings tighter which means I couldn't run so quick and it kind of affected the way I played.
“So it was quite frustrating at that time, trying to do things you were able to do before but were then restricted to do.
“I think they believed that it was still there and it was a phase that I just needed to come through.
“There was a lot of debate but I think everybody at Southampton and especially Rod Ruddick, the Southampton scout who actually spotted me when I was nine, all believed that I would make it and we got through that phase and I actually showed what I was capable of.”
Now Bale is the world’s most expensive player, a title that has been earned with hard work and little bit of luck along the way.
“At that time I don't think anybody expected anything in the future to happen as big as it did,” he added.
“I think it was obviously thanks to all them that they showed the faith in me and I think those little strokes of luck and the bounce of the ball, you need sometimes to get where you are and luckily that went in my favour.
“I always believed in my ability but I think in any sport you need that little bit of luck.
“That scout might just be there that day that you're playing in a certain game which obviously happened for me.
“So there was an element of luck but I think that a lot of it is down to your hard work and dedication and how much effort you put in on the training pitch and on game days.
“That's been there since I first started and that's still there now.”
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.