Why it is time to bring Bale to United.
I am going to be direct here; trying to bring Gareth Bale to Old Trafford would mean a tedious transfer saga, an inflated fee and could well prove impossible to achieve. Despite all this, I think an attempt should be made, and summer 2013 is the time to strike.
Being married to a Spurs fan, I have watched more Tottenham games than any of our other rivals. It has been an entertaining sideshow for me to focus on Bale’s quest to perfect his Cristiano Ronaldo impression. All the elements are there of 2006 version Ronaldo; increasing goal return, diving reputations, more ostentatious attempts from distance, open disapproval of teammates’ shortcomings, growing awareness of how to roam from the wing effectively and even the trademark infuriatingly selfish away performances.
The decision for Bale then is how he moves to the next level. For all Villas-Boas’ impressive endeavours, the feeling remains that qualification for the Champions League represents the summit of Tottenham’s ambitions. It won’t be lost on Bale that his breakthrough moment came over two seasons ago now. He will take some comfort from improving as a player in this time, but the bottom line is in terms of achievement he has made no progress. The sale of Modric reinforced the view that Spurs are destined to remain a second tier club. If Bale is to become one of the Europe’s premier players then logic would suggest a move to one of the Europe’s premier clubs. Only by being surrounded by superior players and competing for trophies can Bale truly fulfil his potential.
But why United?
Daniel Levy attempted to soften the blow of finally losing Modric by announcing a new partnership with Real Madrid. Speculative assumptions were immediately made that this paved the way for Tottenham’s other prize asset to make the same move in the near future. Madrid would certainly fit the profile of the challenge Bale needs as he turns 24 in the summer. Where better to establish yourself as a successor to Ronaldo than at the club where he has become the undisputed second best player of the planet? Herein lies the problem, a move to Madrid at this stage would see Bale directly competing with Ronaldo in order to play in his preferred role. As the feted Modric has found, there are no guarantees at Madrid and a bit part role is a real (forgive the pun) possibility. Is operating as Ronaldo’s understudy an effective way of auditioning to be leading man? Ask Luis Nani. In my view a move to Madrid would see his minutes limited, his role ever-changing and his development stalled.
Which brings me to Manchester United. If Bale were to move to Old Trafford he would be the marquee signing and clear first choice in his preferred position. A debut season at the club with an experienced, Welsh legend for company would allow him to make the transition to the top tier in a comfortable environment. From United’s point of view, he would bring qualities we clearly lack. It is a strange scenario we find ourselves in where our success this season is in spite of an underlying collection of wingers. Young has been tactically useful if limited, Nani has been absent sometimes in body – always in mind, and the less said about Valencia’s regression the better. It is a damning indictment of our options that our most impressive wide players this season have either been fullbacks or 38 years of age. Bale would bring direct running, consistency of supply and an added goal threat. It isn’t hard to think of him linking up spectacularly with the players we have both emerging and established.
Making sense is one thing – actually happening is another. In a dream scenario for many we would be saving our summer budget to bring in that central midfield colossus Reds have been demanding for years. The likelihood of that is a subject for a whole other article but recent seasons would suggest ‘no chance.’ Defensively we have been porous this term – yet with Smalling, Jones and Evans already at the club is a major move for a defender likely? I’d suggest not. At the time of writing, an interest in Zaha has been confirmed yet this would be an acquisition for the future rather than a purchase to solve our immediate wide issues. James Rodriguez is another name frequently linked; but I confess to being in the dark about his likely price tag and/or adaptability to our culture. Bale would carry no such concerns as a proven Premier League player who has excelled in his fleeting opportunities on the European stage. The biggest stumbling block therefore would be cost – the sale of a couple of well-paid squad members (Nani? Anderson?) and likely departure/retirement from at least one from our veterans corps would free up space on the wage bill.
The transfer fee is a trickier issue. The hostility between the respective boardrooms is well known; and Levy would revel in his reputation for driving a hard bargain. A fee in excess of £35m would not be unexpected. A bridge too far in the era of Glazernomics? Perhaps not. The signing of van Persie (minimal resale value, high wages, significant fee) showed a willingness to splash out when a player becomes available of a) sufficient quality to significantly improve fortunes on the field, and b) has the status or potential to be a marketable name throughout the globe. Bale ticks both boxes. In addition we were allegedly willing to pay major sums for Hazard and Moura – players with a similar (or in Lucas’ case arguably lesser) status and record to Bale. Hope springs that the board would be willing to spend big to secure Bale’s capture. Much talk since the Champions League draw has been of ‘bringing Ronaldo home’ – that is beyond our financial capability but Bale is the next best thing.
Do I think it will happen? Probably not. By this stage I would have expected a greater public charm offensive and calculated leaking to prompt Fleet Street ‘exclusives’ that the deal was on. However as today’s opponents love to remind us, I can ‘dare to dream’.