George Alexander Loius, Britain’s most recent reason for patriotic exultations. Third in line to the throne. So who’s ahead of him? The way British sports journalists make it seem, second would be Andy Murray, and first would most certainly be Gareth Bale.
The PFA’s player of the year and the Football Writers’ Association player of the year – they have good reason to be excited about him; but even more so to have a gaping hole left in them when he jumps ship.
When Real Madrid come calling, baroque trumpet and all, you don’t just wave them away. He has the potential of being at the centre of football’s most expensive transfer ever; a chance to play amongst the world’s elite; the possible privilege of picking the minds of one of football’s greatest managers. He wants the move and Daniel Levy wants the rightful compensation. It’s more likely than not.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BALE… AND ÖZIL… AND ISCO
With Di María having been named as a potential makeweight in the deal, his position at the club is clear. But one thing that doesn’t share equal transparency is having three world-class players to occupy two positions (assuming Ancelotti does operate under a 4-2-3-1). Who will the Italian play?
Özil with 68 club assists is probably indispensible in that number ten slot. His role connects the play and injects a flowing cohesion. Isco and Bale can both occupy that position but bring a different approach – they can be more direct and supplement wide areas. It’s all subjective to what Ancelotti’s tactical take on his team.
So it now appears that Bale and Isco would be direct competition for each other for membership in that trio. And if you’re going to unprecedented lengths to acquire a player’s services he has got to be a starter. But the similarities in talent with the former Málaga man argues Isco’s case for him. One potential solution is that Ronaldo will be used as a central striker (particularly likely now Gonzalo Higuain has moved on) with Bale playing on the right of him and Di Maria on the left with Ozil in support.
‘BUT YET I RUN BEFORE MY HORSE TO MARKET’
As much as Spurs need their Welsh wizard, there could be reciprocated reliance that has been glossed over. They may have, once upon a time, offered him to Birmingham City, but Bale’s been resilient and fought off a lack of faith and injuries to flourish as one of the world’s most deadly attackers.
This astronomical rise to prominence hasn’t exactly been linear. Only in the past couple of seasons has he shown this immense talent. Now that he’s built like an elite athlete, and has an entire club eating from the palm of his hand, he has been an absolute sensation. Connect the dots and you may realise that North London is perhaps, for the time being, the best place for him to be. The mental side of things must be as influential a factor as any.
In his current environment he’s number one. That isn’t because of an egotistical issue, it’s because he’s stepped up and is the commander on the pitch. As many times as it has been said before, he is their most lethal weapon, and maybe that’s when he’s at his best – when the weight of the world is on his shoulders and he propels it back from whence it came. Reports claim he has as big an influence off the pitch: a big character in the dressing room, not quite as a leader but just a presence.
THE PRECARIOUS PARADIGM
If he swaps White Hart Lane for the Bernabéu, all that added importance that he’s adopted will definitely be marginalised if not altogether obliterated. Ancelotti may be a diplomat, but there’s only so much that that will help replicate Bale’s status in Madrid as it is in London.
Aside from that, not making himself a Conquistador towards La Decima doesn’t make sense. Playing in front of 85,000 fans every fortnight, regular Champions League football, actually contending for titles. To be the best you have to play with them and compete with them. In terms of maturation it will do his footballing side an immense amount and may mould him into an elite professional, but it could simultaneously belittle his character by constraining it and affect the psychological aspect of it all.
Tottenham could make him into a leader, an astute decision maker, a real man of the game. It’s a very precarious position he has himself in; either way he has too much talent for each option not to be a success. Ideally he’d have to play for both – be there when Spurs are making that final push for Champions League football, to drift in from the right flank at Villa Park and unleash a far post-bound bolt of Bale lightning; then be clad in the famous all white to rip apart tiring legs in a Champions League semi-final and let Ronaldo ultimately claim all the plaudits for finishing off his team-mate’s magnificent run, to steal the tie – he probably does have the stamina for it.
If Madrid do eventually get their man, and however extortionate the price may seem now, they’ll recover it, as they did with Ronaldo – obviously not as quickly. But this team they’re assembling has more promise and talent than their recent predecessors, so sustainable success is very much a possibility.
But with Daniel Levy a notoriously difficult negotiator, the aspirations may crash and burn. And Madrid will react like an angry teenage girl and go buy something else – in this it would be an actual person, and may come in the shape of Luis Suárez. He mightn’t be that exact dress that Madrid wanted, but it’ll be a pretty good replacement. (End of shopping analogy)
That’s what Bale may fall victim to – the ruthlessness of Los Blancos. They’ll find a replacement for the season and that could be a devaluation of Bale or perhaps interest other deep-pocketed suitors. It’s a crucial stage in the Welshman’s career and being a spectator of the events offers for quite fascinating viewing.