The important details are all confirmed; it is so close to being announced that Real Madrid, "by accident," briefly made Gareth Bale’s No. 11 shirt available to order on their official website on Wednesday.
Tottenham were upset about this—Real Madrid are saying that part of the website is run by Adidas, and it went down for maintenance soon after it came out, but it annoyed the Premier League side nonetheless.
Real Madrid were concerned that the mix-up might cause Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to delay matters—but the primary figures have all been agreed.
The timing of the announcement now becomes interesting. Real Madrid had wanted to announce it as part of the tribute to former striker Raul during the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy on Thursday night, but Spurs told them to hold off.
Levy is also trying to negotiate big deals with AS Roma for Erik Lamela, Anzhi Makhachkala for Willian (although Chelsea may just have hijacked that deal) and perhaps even one other before the Bale deal is formally announced, because Spurs are concerned that if Bale’s exit is confirmed before they complete their other business it may just make those impending deals more expensive.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday evening Spanish media close to the Real Madrid president Florentino Perez reported that Gareth Bale should be in Madrid for his unveiling on Monday or Tuesday, and the official announcement will obviously come before that.
Perez has been so eager to get things finalised he has been the one holding the negotiations directly with Levy. The two men have dispensed with any go-betweens for the final stretch.
Aside from the timing of the announcement, which has political and commercial implications for both clubs but particularly Real, the argument will be about the fee. Real Madrid are trying to publicly push the idea that they will pay €90 million (just over £77m)—which will make the deal less than what they paid for Cristiano Ronaldo three years ago—but I am pretty sure the talks have arrived at a number greater than that.
Some of my sources say €99m (nearly £85m), others say above €100m. I am sure Real Madrid will attempt to insist that the fee is €90m, but I am convinced it is more than that. Bale will become the world's most expensive player.
While the transfer fee remains in some doubt, Bale’s personal terms have all been finalised. He will sign a six-year deal with a net worth of €5m a year, which puts him in the same bracket as the likes of Karim Benzema and Mesut Özil. He will remain in the shadow of Ronaldo’s €12m deal though.
Where will Bale play in this Real side? Well, Benzema and Özil—along with Angel Di Maria—are likely to be the players most affected by his arrival.
Head coach Carlo Ancelotti certainly was not that bothered whether Bale joined or not (and may still not be that bothered either way), because he had already identified that the side’s biggest problem is elsewhere, in central midfield.
That has only become a bigger concern now, with the news that Xabi Alonso will miss at least two months with a broken bone in his foot.
That means Casemiro is going to become an important member of the team now, as he is almost the only defensive midfielder they have available.
Bale, meanwhile, will not be rushed into action. Real are very aware that he is short on fitness and, as a very physical type of player, will need to be at or near peak condition if he is to perform to his best. They also realise he will need time to settle and adapt in a new country with new teammates and a different style of play.
When he does reach full fitness, the early talk is that Benzema will be affected because Ronaldo will be pushed forward to be the side’s No. 9 in some games. But obviously there will be a degree of rotation, with Di Maria also likely to be asked to step aside for some games—as Ancelotti plays Ronaldo on the right, Bale on the left and Benzema through the middle.
Özil will also be affected, but no-one really knows how as yet. What is certain is that one of the regulars will have to come out of the side to make way for Bale—but that is all a few weeks away, because the Welshman is not physically ready yet, and his new club will not rush him.