Tottenham losing the battle to keep Gareth Bale
By Chris Higham
This past week, Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale scored two goals in their 2-1 Europa League First Leg win over La Ligue side Lyon. Both goals came from free kicks with the winner being scored in the last few seconds of injury time at the end of the match. The Welsh Wizard not only put his club on the front foot from what appeared to be a tenuous position going into the Second Leg out in Lyon, but also increased the possibility that next season, he will no longer play his football at White Hart Lane.
My first re-collection ofGareth Bale on the European stage was probably at the same time as everyone who isn't a Spurs fan. It was late in 2010 when Tottenham faced Inter Milan at the iconic San Siro Stadium in a Champions League Group match. Harry Redknapp's side had started terribly after losing goalkeeper Herculio Gomes after just eight minutes to a red card. Inter Milan, who were the current Champions League title holders, then destroyed Tottenham with a four goal blast after just 35 minutes. The game was as good as over, but not for Gareth Bale. In the second half, the Welshman went on a tear of his own and terrorised Inter's Brazilian left-back Maicon, arguably the best in the world, to score a ferocious hat-trick to cut the score down to 4-3. It was not just the three goals that amazed us all, it was the manner in which they were scored. Incredibly, he repeated his torture of Maicon in the return leg only 2 weeks later in Tottenham's 3-1 win at White Hart Lane. Gareth Bale had arrived on the European stage.
Over the next two years, Bale cemented his position as one of the world's top players. He is an integral part of manager Andres Villas Boas's team strategy which helps to make Tottenham's attack one of the most feared in the Barclay's Premier League. As he has matured, his goalscoring abilities have grown immensely and this season, he sits on 17 goals in only 30 games. With this type of performance, Bale has obviously been more than a blip on the radar of the big European clubs with Real Madrid and Barcelona rumoured to both have shown genuine interest. His career started as a left back but the potential in his play forced his coaches to turn him into a midfielder, and pushed him further up into the opposition's half of the field where he has become a formidable threat. Out of the Top 10 scorers in the Barclays Premier League this season, Bale is one of only two players that are not strikers. His total of 13 goals puts him fifth on that list.
Quite clearly, the main topic of discussion for Tottenham fans going forward will be the future of Gareth Bale. Will Chairman Daniel Levy be able to hold on to his most prized possession in a world where money talks the loudest? The real question is whether Levy wants to, and whether Bale himself prefers to stay in London or ply his trade in lands far away. Levy has a reputation for being a shrewd negotiator on the transfer market and has in the past, sold his best talent for huge transfer fees. Dimitar Berbatov was sold to Manchester United in 2008 for $45 million ,and Luka Modric was sold for approx $48 million to Real Madrid at the beginning of this season. Tottenham manager Andres Villas Boas must be praying every night to the footballing gods that Bale will stay, but frankly, I can't see any way that will happen.
The facts are that Tottenham do not have a bottomless pit of money with which to compete for top players in the transfer market. They rely on the sale of their best talent to partially bankroll their squad turnover so Chairman Levy will be keen to fill up the club's coffers by unloading Bale to the highest bidder. He knows he has a captive market, and with players of Bale's calibre, it is definitely a sellers market. In addition, top players nowadays know they can command top wages by playing for the right clubs and Bale is no exception. He is young and will not reach his peak for another 4-5 years. He wants to win trophies and not just the FA or League Cup - he wants to win League title and Champions League trophies. That isn't going to happen if he stays with Tottenham. The other factor is his nationality. He is Welsh so realistically, his international career will probably never reach the heights of his club success, just askRyan Giggs. Therefore, his achievements will only likely come from club football, another reason why he will most likely leave.
Gareth Bale, for me, represents a throwback to the days of Bobby Charlton, and others, who had the ability to beat opponents with pace, skill and strength and then, when the timing is right, the knowledge to know when to pull the shooting trigger. He has tremendous power in that left foot of his and is as strong as an ox. In my opinion, he currently ranks just below Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but alongside Robin Van Persie in the "Top Player Rankings" worldwide. He has his weaknesses, notably a penchant for belly-flopping in the penalty area when tackled, and a certain level of inconsistency in his play. Both of these traits become irrelevant when compared to what he brings to the table to any club who has enough money to buy him. I think he'll end up in Spain, as only Chelsea and Manchester City can afford him in England. I'd like to see him stay in England but one thing is for sure, he will tear up La Liga defences for years to come if that is where he ends up.
Oh, how I wish Gareth Bale was English !