Has anything ever risen in value as swiftly as Gareth Bale? The London housing market? The South Sea Bubble? They’re both steady, long-term investments compared with a life-changing stake in the Welshman.
Last season he was worth £40m. Last week, he was worth £80m. At the weekend it was up to £90m and this morning most newspapers were gleefully rounding it up to £100m. If he’s still at White Hart Lane when the season starts, it’ll be cheaper to send a man to Mars than it will be to secure Bale’s signature.
It’s hard to tell if Bale is really worth all of that money, in so much as any human being can ever be worth all of that money. Obviously, he’s a wonderful footballer and an extremely impressive physical specimen. No longer the skinny, simian-looking youth from Southampton, these days he’s built like a sack of bricks stuffed into a sausage skin. He’s quick, strong, driven, determined and if his rapid ascent is anything to go by, he’s obviously a very good trainer as well.
But he’s not a legitimate phenomenon like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, one of those once-in-a-generation-except-for-this-generation-obviously footballers who are so good that merely owning them is tantamount to cheating. He’s arguably in the bracket below with people like Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Tony Hibbert. And yet, sadly for Spurs, that won’t make him any easier to replace.
Unless Real Madrid’s bid gets so high that Daniel Levy could buy New Zealand and use it as a base for his experiments with dinosaur DNA, there really isn’t much of an incentive for Tottenham to sell. It’s all very well having £100m, but spending it wisely is a very different matter.
As anyone who ever won the Lottery and went public will tell you, it’s very difficult to haggle over a price when the person opposite knows that you can pay off the African debt with your Switch card. Tottenham may find themselves forced to pay wildly over the odds for players who wouldn’t improve their team unless the rest of their team lost their feet to gout. Or as I like to call it, Stewart Downing Syndrome.
At this stage in the transfer window, the bulk of the big name players have already moved. Tottenham need to get into the Champions League and stay there, but even if they spent like drunken sailors, they are unlikely to identify more than a handful of footballers of Bale’s calibre.
They might be best served by joining the hunt for Luis Suarez, perhaps by dangling a lump of raw meat on a rope in the middle of Seven Sisters Road and waiting patiently for nightfall. Given that Suarez wants Champions League football, the only certain benefit of that plan is that it will really, really annoy Arsenal.
Levy’s best option is to do exactly what he’s doing now. To get down on his knees and beg Bale to stay. Rather than grudgingly accept a world record transfer fee, Tottenham should offer up a salary that could pay for an entire team, a bonus structure that includes Primae Noctis with Levy’s daughters and the application for planning permission for a 50ft platinum sculpture of Bale’s trademarked heart-fingers.
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