Boom or bust for Gareth Bale? | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerBoom or bust for Gareth Bale?

Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013 | 05:25 PM

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Gareth Bale, the man, will want to focus on his football in the goldfish bowl of Real Madrid, but that will be easier said than done, writes soccer analyst Nigel Reed. (Andrew Winning/Reuters) Gareth Bale, the man, will want to focus on his football in the goldfish bowl of Real Madrid, but that will be easier said than done, writes soccer analyst Nigel Reed. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)

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Gareth Bale is finally the property of Real Madrid. The blockbuster transfer of 2013 makes him the costliest player in soccer history. Now the question: is he really worth it?
The haggling is done. The deal is complete. Now the question: is he really worth it?

Gareth Bale is finally the property of Real Madrid. The blockbuster transfer of 2013 makes him the costliest player in soccer history. The Spanish giants were determined to get their man Sunday but even by their exorbitant standards the young Welshman has cost an arm and a leg.

Clichéd though it sounds, it is nonetheless true: every player has his price. The valuation, in Bale's case reported to be 100 million euros ($132 million US), is the result of one reluctant vendor and one zealous purchaser settling on an acceptable number. Both walks away from the bargaining table believing he has the better part of the transaction.  

Whether you and I think this new world record transfer fee is insane is irrelevant. Madrid could have spent the cash paying off the national debt of a small third world country but this is the entertainment industry where box office is king.

Brazilian starlet Neymar is now wearing a Barcelona jersey. Madrid was forced to respond with a big money signing of its own. For Madrid, being the second best team in Spain is simply not an option. The ongoing game of One-upmanship between Spain's twin juggernauts will continue until Hell freezes over.

Bale a 'masterpiece'

Bale's value lies in his rarity. Like a masterpiece at auction there is only one original and a whole pile of dubious quality fakes. To own it reinforces ones reputation and makes a powerful statement rivals are unable to ignore. Adding Bale to its collection simply enhances Madrid's status.

It will also shift truckloads of merchandise. Replica jerseys bearing Madrid's famous logo and Bale's number 11 will be disappearing faster than they can print them. In the reality of 21st century professional football, being a player of rare talent is only part of the equation. From a business perspective, marketability to the masses is a vital ingredient

Bale gets what he wants. Having recently turned 24 he has cashed in on a stellar season at Tottenham Hotspur, though his stock has been steadily rising for a number of years. Madrid's epic pursuit is not based on a single domestic campaign; they will have followed his development closely since that stunning Champions League hat trick at the San Siro three years ago.

It is also a win-win for Madrid's new manager. Carlo Ancelotti is not only getting the hottest soccer property in Europe, in Bale he is acquiring an ideal professional. Madrid will never lose Bale to a World Cup or a European Championship. Sadly, Wales will probably never qualify so Bale will come back fit and fresh for each preseason.

Mature enough?

The big question is not the transfer fee per say. Rather it is whether Bale, himself, is mature enough to embrace his new life and the expectation which comes as standard with a move of this magnitude. Bale, the man, will want to focus on his football but that will be easier said than done now he has been thrust into the middle of the goldfish bowl.

History is not on his side. Brits abroad generally don't work. Since time immemorial, British players have been lured by the glamour and frankly the weather to Europe's sunnier climes. The vast majority have been a bust and after a season or so in Italy or Spain have caught the next plane back to the UK.

Performing outside their comfort zone in countries where the English language, culture and a nice cup of tea are hard to find is more than most can handle. 

Easy for us armchair critics to sit back and say they should be more professional. They have every luxury at their fingertips -- but money cannot buy contentment. Wives and girlfriends often find it hard to settle and when they're unhappy, the man of the house can find concentrating on the job at hand isn't as straightforward as it used to be.

A lot of it can be blamed on a lack of education. Most British footballers are talented athletes with their brains in their feet. Their chances of learning a new language or exploring a new culture are roughly equivalent to me being the next man on the moon.

It is what it is, but by and large it is not a recipe for success. There is no question Bale has the talent to succeed but coming to terms with being merely a squad player combined with domestic distractions will be the acid test.

Gareth Bale is now rich beyond his wildest imagination. He has his dream move. He will play for the one of the world's most prestigious clubs with some of the world's finest players.

He has proved he belongs in their company. Whether or not he stays among them and enhances his own career rather than Madrid's global image remains to be seen.

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