Barcelona: Why Signing Gareth Bale Would Take Vilanova's Team to a New Level
It's pretty clear that Gareth Bale is destined for great things. A hat-trick against Aston Villa might not be the most difficult thing in world football at the moment, but the Welsh winger's performance again showcased his destructive potential.
Bale, still only 23 years old, faces the same fate as George Best at the international level; the Northern Ireland ace, arguably the most talented player ever to grace the game, never had the chance to display his skills at a major international tournament.
Bale has played in the modern game's most important club tournament but a player of his caliber should be doing so every season. Tottenham, which picked up a raw left back from Southampton for a song in 2007, now has one of the most valuable players in the world on its books.
Despite his prodigious reputation at the Saints, a club with an admirable academy system that has also churned out England internationals Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in recent years, Bale did not make an immediate impact in North London.
A bit-part left-back during his first two seasons, it wasn't until 2009-10 that Bale came of age. Limited to the bench by the form of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the Welshman earned the trust of Harry Redknapp when the Cameroon defender was sidelined for a spell.
Redknapp, the Premier League's most accomplished polisher of rough diamonds, was the coach who thought Bale might be better deployed as a winger.
The following season, with Tottenham in the Champions League, a virtuoso performance against Inter caused the continent's biggest clubs to start wondering at Bale's potential.
But he has remained at Tottenham—at least for now. Real Madrid is planning an assault on White Hart Lane to bring Bale to the capital. This is why Barcelona should act quickly.
The lure of Madrid is enough to make even the most level-headed player glance in the direction of a fluttering eyelash. Bale shows as much balance in his play as in his personal life. Mario Balotelli he is not.
Real's comfy little arrangement with Daniel Levy, born of the Luka Modric transfer saga, works against the Catalan club. Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas has said it is impossible that Bale will leave in January but Spurs have proven a selling club, if the price is right.
Tito Vilanova and his board should pull out all the stops to secure Bale before Real flexes its considerable financial muscle.
Barcelona is a team that needs little improvement. Bale is one of very few players that could actually make the serial trophy-botherer even better.
David Villa appears to have fallen out of favor and is expected to make a move in the January transfer window, although nothing is yet set in stone. But the move makes sense for both club and player; Villa is Spain's all-time leading scorer but has been shunted out to the left of a front three for the past couple of seasons because of Leo Messi's brilliance in the central role.
Villa is worth a few quid. Not the youngest player on Barca's books by any means, even at 31 he will still attract a fee in the region of €15 million. Bales is valued at almost three times that amount but Barcelona has shown in the past that it can match the rest of Europe's oil-rich, big spenders when the chips are down. Unfortunately, the last time out, its gamble on the man Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not exactly pay dividends.
With Bale in the squad at the expense of Villa, Barcelona would have the most offensive left side in world football. Jordi Alba and the Tottenham winger would give any right back in the world what an opponent of Best once described as twisted blood. The addition of a dedicated wide man on the left would also free up Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas from the need to fill in on that flank.
That would leave Barcelona a little overstaffed in midfield, but considering the quality Vilanova has inherited, it's hardly a headache his counterparts wouldn't bang their own face into a brick wall to have.
A Barcelona team including Bale would be improved in a way only a Barcelona team like this can be; by the addition of a truly world-class player in a specific position. It's a more natural fit than Real, largely because Cristiano Ronaldo will not necessarily enjoy switching wings, or indeed relish the presence of a potentially bigger draw than himself at the Bernabeu.
If Sandro Rosell is half the businessman he seems to be, he'll be on the phone to Levy quicker than you can say "David Beckham."
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