Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gareth Bale

It's not every day that the transfer record is broken so it's worth a little time to reflect on Real Madrid's latest piece of shopping.

We'll start by pushing the moral issue aside of a country with unemployment in the under 25s over 50pct seeing the team which is the very embodiment of the Madrid establishment spending 100M Euros on one player. What we want to know is in footballing (and commercial) terms, is he worth it?

The answer is that Madrid clearly think so and so therefore he is, the market is after all the market.  The question is also clouded slightly by the relative marketability of the player and Real obviously think Bale is very marketable indeed.

Asking the question about Bale's worth in pure footballing terms and there would seem little question that Real have overpaid and done so possibly dramatically.

If you pushed age to one side for a moment and considered who are the best players currently on the planet, I would list the following ahead of him in terms of ability and influence on matches, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Gianlugi Buffon.

At least of comparable ability I would place Frank Ribery, Mesut Ozil, Luis Suarez, Radaman Falcao, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Aguero, Thiago Silva, Arjen Robben, Philip Lahm, Robin Van Persie and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The list above is incomplete and will no doubt provide much argument but it is merely aiming to illustrate a point. Of those players, only Lionel Messi would be transferred for more money than Bale has just gone for. None of the others would get even close apart from possibly Ronaldo although his age now counts against him.

Admittedly attacking players go for a premium but is Bale really worth more than double that of Mesut Ozil? He is for me is one of the best 'No10s' in the world and has proven himself already for Real and at the World Cup for Germany and is the same age. It strikes me that his sudden availability caught a LOT of managers off guard.

The other issue for Bale is that British players generally don't travel well. Real is one of the harshest of environments and whilst one must admire his ambition to prove himself at the very top of the game, he faces a very hard task to live up to his billing, especially given he will be asking Ronaldo to share that top billing with him.

Players always state that they have no control over the fee and that it does not matter to them but that is codswallop, the fee ALWAYS matters. It can either destroy a player as we've seen with the likes of Fernando Torres or it can embolden a player like it did with Ronaldo but be sure, they are always aware of it.

No less than Zinedine Zidane arrived in Madrid with a world record transfer fee hung around his neck and badly suffered for several months. Zidane of course finally settled and became a Madrid great but there is no one who can convince me right now that Bale will ever be in the same class as Zidane.

For 100M Euros you should be expecting the absolute finished article and Bale is not yet that. Although he looks far stronger physically now he has a shaky injury record, it is a big gamble for Madrid.

Merchandising will play a big part in Madrid's thinking also. They clearly feel from the way they have introduced him that he is far more marketable than Ozil (unless you suffer from a peculiar owl fetish) and that they can recoup a large amount of the deal commercially. Beckham after all famously paid his own way within a couple of seasons.

This may all sound unduly negative about Bale's prospects on the pitch at Real and it is very easy to snipe before seeing how he actually performs. Bale seems a decent enough down to earth bloke and no one other than maybe a few grouchy Spurs fans and the Nou Camp faithful will wish to see him fall flat.

Madrid however is THE footballing goldfish bowl and with language problems to conquer, a young family and that transfer fee, it is going to be a tough settling process. A hat trick in his first match might settle all that but we somehow think that Cristiano Ronaldo might have something to say about that - No Nonsense.