It must have been fun to be a member of Tottenham’s PR staff Tuesday morning.
Greeting the club’s workers was Marca’s impeccable cover story that a certain Gareth Bale was about ready to sign for Real Madrid. The deal was claimed to be the floated £85 million with a contract of around £8.6 million per year being pocketed by the Welshman.
The front page also mentioned that Bale had told the club he had finally wanted to leave. Another story on Marca’s website detailed that the winger had wanted to play for the club “since he was a kid,” with the line attributed to Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett.
Meanwhile, the English papers were continuing to drum up the idea that Manchester United were still piecing together a bid for the Spurs’ talisman. The Mail reiterated the point, with Ian Ladyman going so far as to say that even with Madrid pressing, United still held the upper hand in the quest for the Welshman’s signature.
Speaking from Hong Kong, Andre Villas-Boas made no bones about his opinion on the matter.
From Sky Sports:
On Gareth, I want to repeat what I was telling you last season and what I was telling you from the beginning of (pre-season) so I cannot extend myself.
He is a player that we are willing to continue to have, he's a Tottenham player, he's one of the most fantastic players in the world at the moment and we are counting on him for the future.
At this point, it is almost a case of lather, rinse and repeat in regards to the endless discussion about Bale. Any intention that Madrid had in admitting defeat in the race to sign the winger was, as it might be said, a half-truth.
There are things, however, that might make the average supporter at least pause for concern.
It was at about this time last term that Marca laid out the front page news with regards to Luka Modric. It took nearly a month for the move to come to fruition but it was the first clear indicator that things had swung in Madrid’s favor.
For all the bluster and gusto with which Marca entails, the paper has a close enough relationship with Madrid that there has to be more than a few persons dropping hints to the writers. It’s also not the first time the front page has been splashed with a new arrival.
As the Mail documented, Marca have been correct with their front page headlines on Modric, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. They may not be saints in the situation but they do have some pretty good sources when it comes to things like this. Marca also was one of the few papers that had new Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino among the candidates before he was announced.
Having made their bed with this story, it would not surprise anyone if they ran a story about Bale every day for the rest of the transfer window. With each keystroke will come more and more intense pressure on Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
Levy’s reputation is being reinforced this window for better or for worse. Missed deals for David Villa, Tin Jedvaj and Christian Benteke, a potential miss in Roberto Soldado and a lack of players leaving the club so far in the transfer window would back the idea that Levy is a pain in the backside to negotiate with.
But this saga will be the ultimate test of what kind of mettle the Spurs chairman contains. AVB has put his neck out on the line to reinforce the idea that Bale is not a sellable asset this summer. Turning tail on that suggestion would almost assuredly mean that the next time a club asks for AVB’s services, there will be a far more receptive ear to the call.
Levy and the club have done well to hold out thus far. Perhaps the thinking is that with a new contract there is a chance for a massive buyout clause to be inserted for next summer. A far-fetched idea for sure, but what if Levy dropped a £100 million clause for the 2014 summer transfer window?
Certainly there would be caveats. Levy would not dare leave that clause in effect if the club place in the top four. Should Tottenham qualify for the Champions League there might be a kicker that moves the clause back another year.
The idea has to be tempting. After all, there would be no shortage of potential suitors at that point. PSG, Monaco, United, Manchester City, Madrid and Barcelona could all conceivably make a run at the number. It would almost certainly get the number it wants with an increased likelihood of Bale’s rampaging runs happening in another part of Europe.
Getting there, however, will be the biggest test of Levy’s club career. Marca think they smell blood in the water and so will many others in the pressure persists.
Whether or not the club has the fight in it to keep hold of their star attraction will be the clearest indicator of where the club’s ambition truly lies.