Bale to Fail? How the World's Most Expensive Player Fares in His First Season

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2013

Bale to Fail? How the World's Most Expensive Player Fares in His First Season

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    This summer's biggest transfer saga is a tug of war between Tottenham and Real Madrid, with the Premier League side trying to keep the Spanish giants from poaching their prized asset Gareth Bale

    Spurs have thus far rejected an eye-watering £85 million bid, with The Mirror claiming they are holding out for an astonishing £100 million. 

    There is plenty of debate as to whether any one player could possibly be worth this amount of money, but if the deal does go through, could he actually live up to his hefty price tag? 

    Here, B/R looks at the five previous most expensive players in the world to see how they performed in their debut season as the most valuable player on earth…


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Cristiano Ronaldo

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    When Cristiano Ronaldo joined Real Madrid from Manchester United for a record €93.9 in July 2009, he was lucky not to be crushed by the weight of expectation.

    The Portuguese superstar did not win any silverware in his first season in Spain, but he was Los Blancos' top scorer with 26 league goals in 28 matches, with an additional 7 strikes in the Champions League. 

    This was 10 more league goals and 5 more European ones than he managed the previous season. 

    Since then, Ronaldo has gone from strength to strength, scoring no fewer than 53 per goals per season and helping his side to a record-breaking La Liga win.

    If not for some Argentinean chap in Barcelona, he would be the undisputed greatest player in the world. 


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    A few weeks before Madrid broke the bank for C-Ron, they spent €68.5 million bringing Kaká from Milan. 

    The Brazilian had scored 95 goals in six seasons in Italy, picking up a pooh-pooh platter of trophies: a Scudetto, Supercoppa Italiana, a Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup. 

    In his first season at the Bernabéu, however, Kaká scored just eight league goals—half of his 2008-09 tally—and a single goal in the Champions League. 

    The season after, Kaká spent around half the time recovering from a knee injury. After being worshiped in Milan, the Brazilian has failed to live up to his potential in La Liga. 

Zinedine Zidane

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    Currently the man trying to persuade Gareth Bale to become the most expensive player in the world via this report from the Guardian UK, Zinedine Zidane had his turn in the sun in 2001, when he joined Madrid for a record around €64 million. 

    In his first season, he scored 12 times—a career high—and a memorable winning goal in the 2002 Champions League Final. 

    That season, the World Cup hero also won French Player of the Year, La Liga's Best Foreign Player, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and third place in FIFA World Player of the Year (an award he won the following season). 

    Up until his retirement in 2006—capped off with an unceremonious World Cup headbutt—Zidane remained one of the greatest players in the world, and one of Los Blancos' all-time greats. 

Luís Figo

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    Luís Figo cost Barcelona just £2.2 million when he arrived from Sporting Lisbon in 1995, but he went on to win two La Liga titles and a host of other silverware during five successful seasons at the Nou Camp.

    In 2000, the Portuguese star made a highly controversial switch to Real Madrid for €45 million. Despite the betrayal that was famously encompassed in a pig's head, Figo won La Liga in his first season and was crown World Player of the Year. 

    The first player of Madird's 'Galáctico' era won the Champions League in his second season and La Liga again in his third, scoring 57 goals across five seasons, showing an undoubted improvement on his efforts in Catalonia. 

Hernán Crespo

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    In 2000, when Serie A was still the biggest league in Europe, Hernán Crespo left Parma for Lazio in a world-record €43.5 million deal. 

    In his first season in Rome, the Argentinean managed 26 league goals, which was four more than the previous season and a career high. 

    He managed a respectable 48 goals in all competitions across two seasons with Lazio, but was sold when the club experienced financial trouble (no doubt because they spent too much on him). 

    Aside from the Supercoppa Italiana he won shortly after joining the Biancazzurri, Crespo picked up no silverware at Lazio, failing to match the 1998-99 season at Parma where he helped deliver the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup. 


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    Luís Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo all thrived as the world's most expensive player, apparently improving on previous achievements.

    Hernán Crespo, on the other hand, seemed to stagnate, while Kaká's career started to take a downwards trajectory (to be fair, he was only the world's most expensive player for a few weeks!).

    While Michael Cox of The Guardian and Zonal Marking feel that there is no obvious place for Bale in Madrid's team—short of replacing Cristiano Ronaldo—Carlo Ancelotti believes he would thrive and slot in nicely, according to The Guardian

    Of course, it is also worth noting that the Welshman had a very poor start at Tottenham, failing to be a part of a winning side for 24 matches