Should Tottenham Hotspur Sell Gareth Bale While His Price Is Sky-High?
Indeed, it has been that kind of summer with more players moving for exorbitant figures than in any previous transfer window: Monaco set the pace with Radamel Falcao (£50 million) and a James Rodriguez-Joao Moutinho double swoop from FC Porto (amounting to £60 million), Paris Saint-Germain took Marquinhos (£30.1 million) and Edinson Cavani (£55 million), whilst Barcelona completed a deal for Brazilian star Neymar (£50.1 million) from Santos (all figures via Transfermarkt).
Now, however, Los Blancos president Florentino Perez has taken it further, with Sky Sports reporting that a world-record figure of over £85 million is on the table for Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to mull over.
And while Spurs supporters would be loathe to lose their best player on the back of his finest season at White Hart Lane, should they cash in on the Welshman for a figure that he quite blatantly isn't worth?
Bale's development last season was magnificent to watch. His performances became more consistent, and time and again he made decisive moments for the benefit of his team. Under Andre Villas-Boas, Bale became a more rounded attacking figure—tactically more astute—and he made the move from one of genuine world-class potential, to become a genuinely world-class player.
Nonetheless he isn't worth world-record figures. However, it is very much a seller's market, with this transfer in particular.
Couple Bale's tremendous 2012-13 with a contract that has three years to run, his age and marketing value to a club like Real Madrid, and Levy is well within his rights to try to milk as much money as possible from any such deal. Playing into Levy's hands also is the vanity of the nine-time European champions.
A tumultuous season at the Santiago Bernabeu saw in-fighting characterise a campaign that saw only the Spanish Super Cup won at the start of the campaign. Defeat in the Champions League semi-final for a third successive year and a disappointing defence of their 2011-12 La Liga crown (which had all but been conceded by Christmas) was bad enough for Jose Mourinho's cycle at the club to come to a close, but their Copa del Rey final defeat to local rivals Atletico on home soil was nothing short of embarrassing, particularly considering Real had taken an early lead.
Whilst completely unrelated to the move for Bale, they help to explain the psyche of a club who seemingly feel the need to make some kind of splash on the footballing world this close season; just to remind those on the outside—and perhaps even themselves—that they are still the powerhouse of European football.
In no sense is Bale worth almost twice as much as either Falcao, Neymar or Cavani, either in a footballing or a commercial sense. But having failed to win one of the big prizes last season, and having seen their bitter rivals pull off their own marquee signing already this summer, Real are looking to comfort their own egos with such a signing.
Preying on such excessive pride has helped Levy inflate the price of the player, and immense credit must go to him for that. But there is also an argument for retaining the player.
No doubt Bale is Spurs best and most talented player and as Villas-Boas looks to revert to his preferred 4-3-3 formation next season, he'll be stationed closer to the opponents goal where his decisive qualities can continue making an invaluable impact. Additionally, the signings of Paulinho and Nacer Chadli, and soon-to-be signing of Valencia striker Roberto Soldado make Spurs first XI much stronger than last year.
And in a transitional Premier League season with Spurs' main rivals all making key changes (both Manchester clubs and Chelsea, or apparently treading water once more, Arsenal) the Lilywhites are very much in with an improved chance of Champions League qualification or even (whisper it quietly) a title challenge. Keeping Bale would enhance their prospects.
Selling the player and bringing in two or three quality signings would likely further strengthen AVB's squad as a whole, and would make them less reliant on one man. However, with a month of the transfer window left and clubs knowing that Tottenham would have plenty of money to spend, they would have no chance of getting value for money. Replacing him like-for-like would be near enough impossible also.
Additionally, Bale's sale, following the likes of Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United and Luka Modric to Madrid, would further mark Spurs as a selling club. Would the game's elite be willing to move to White Hart Lane to what has all but been confirmed as a feeder club to the big boys? Don't bet on it.
Should Spurs cash in on Gareth Bale for a world record fee?
For Spurs it is a critical juncture. They make what will be an intriguing statement on how they see themselves whether they sell or not. If they do indeed cash in, the aftermath will make for particularly interesting viewing as they look to replace Bale and build in his absence.
Keep him and they make a statement that they don't see themselves as a feeder club; however, they had damn sure better improve on last season's fifth-place finish, despite what was a record Premier League point haul.
In the end it's a double-edged sword, the proverbial Catch-22. No matter what course of action Daniel Levy takes, he's in something of a no-win position; there will be those who disagree no matter what the outcome.
In the end, both options aren't without their risks, nor their rewards. It's the kind of fork in the road which can define a club. Real Madrid have long been defined by their pathological need to be seen as the best. How Tottenham are to be defined may well be about to become that little bit clearer.
You can continue the debate with me on Twitter: @AA_Richards
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