It was all going too well. On Wednesday night the word coming from London and Madrid (people close to the negotiations but clearly not Daniel Levy) was that the Anglo-Spanish deal for Gareth Bale was imminent. Details of the transfer fee, length of the contract and salary were published in both countries. What could possibly go wrong?
On Friday, Franco Baldini was in Madrid to dot the Is and cross the Ts, while Levy and the Spurs board became irritated at Real Madrid’s constant gestures that suggested the matter was sorted. Tottenham did not like the "accidental" advertising of the Gareth Bale shirt on the club’s web site—Real Madrid say that part of the page is dealt directly by Adidas, but the situation was a bit suspect.
Spurs did not appreciate the well-publicised preparations of the stage and scenario that would welcome Bale to the Bernabeu either. Nor were they overly impressed with the "coincidence" that Bale and Real chairman Florentino Perez were in Marbella at the same time (landed with a three hour difference).
Madrid insist Perez was going to meet a famous football man (not Welsh), and Bale stayed in a flat owned by his agent’s company, Jonathan Barnett.
There is more, and we are getting to the heart of the matter—Spurs are not happy with the fact that the payment of the fee would be given in too many installments and even less with the changing of the price.
The first offer, placed around three weeks ago, was of £85 million (€100 million) to be paid in six installments. Cristiano Ronaldo, who was negotiating his new contract, took a very dim view of the fact that Bale’s transfer fee would exceed the €96 million that he had cost. We’re not talking jealously here so much as hierarchy.
If they wanted him so much at the Bernabeu (Ronaldo is set to earn a net €17 million a year if he agrees to the latest offer from the club), Perez should confirm it with figures and gestures—like staying the most expensive player in the history of the club. The message from the Portuguese star’s management has been clear—let’s see how the Bale saga finishes before we sign anything.
Ronaldo wants to spend his best years at Real Madrid (perhaps before returning to Manchester United later in his career), and he wants to go down in history as Madrid’s top goal scorer ever, but not at any price. Added to this, his relationship with Perez is not the strongest it’s ever been.
Faced with this reaction, two weeks after having made their original offer, Madrid took the unusual decision of placing a reduced bid of €90 million on the table, but payable in just one payment.
Tottenham smelt a rat.
Was this was emanating from the changing rooms where certain players were unhappy about the proposed signing of Bale, or was it that Madrid were not in a position to finance a transfer deal of this magnitude? Either way, Madrid has insisted since then that they will not go above the €90 million offer—a message directed to Ronaldo, of course.
Enough, said Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, and now we’re all going to have to wait for Tottenham’s next move. And that will depend on many other things.
Gareth Bale was given permission to distance himself from the hubbub surrounding the deal but will return to light training at Tottenham on Tuesday after a couple of days in Marbella. Andre Villas Boas gave his players the day off after their victory against Swansea, but said he would then like Bale back for training.
As a consequence of all this, Tottenham casually let it be known yesterday that they had received another offer for him (maybe from Manchester United or from PSG, although Bale’s people are denying it) and that they were now considering it. The English club’s wish is not to sell their star, although they are aware of the player’s wishes that he expressed at the beginning of the summer to move to Spain.
What they don’t want to do, however, is to look like they have yielded to pressure they consider to be emanating from Madrid, such as the Bale shirt, the stage and the suggestions that the deal is all done). That is not how Levy does his business.
Their decision over the sale (in terms of the timing of it) will depend on the signings Spurs can make over the next few days, because what they will not allow is to let their side to be weaker than it was last year. (Juan Mata is on their radar but Chelsea has told them to look elsewhere).
It has also been suggested that another variable could be the result of their match against Arsenal, which is being played on the first of September, one day before the transfer market closes.
So negotiations haven’t broken down, but the speed of the deal has changed and there are new rules in place—Levy’s.