So it's come to this, folks. The Gareth Bale transfer saga between Real Madrid and Tottenham has dragged on for so long—good lord, so very, very long—that we've reached the point where all that's left to debate is whether Bale should be fined for skipping training sessions this week or not.
From BBC Sport:
Of course, it would be ridiculous for the club to fine a player for not showing up to training when the manager, Andre Villas-Boas, has already publicly admitted a deal was close to completion. Just don't tell the manager that, as he suggested publicly Bale should be fined.
Oh what a tangled web he weaves. His comments, via David Hytner of The Guardian:
The fact that he hasn't turned up … I don't think it's the correct behaviour. But in the end, it's a position of pressure and a statement from the player or whatever that means. It's a position they chose to take. It's up to the club now to decide if it's a fineable offence.
Is he on strike? No, I don't think he's on strike. Will he be in tomorrow? I don't know. I'm not really in control of the situation. I've left it up to the club to decide what they want to do. Until the transfer happens, the player is a Tottenham player. If there are orders for him to be here and he is not, I can only leave it to club officials to deal with it. It's up to the club to decide whether or not it's a breach of club rules. I've given my opinion on it. It's up to them to decide whether they act on it or not.
Those comments were on Wednesday, and obviously Bale didn't show up for training on Thursday. And come on, why would he?
Imagine being Bale, hanging out with your "teammates" while everyone in the world knew you were a signature away from being a Real Madrid player. Pretty awkward, eh?
Of course, that hasn't stopped certain parties from offering sharp rebukes of Bale's behavior. Iain Macintosh of ESPN didn't pull any punches in his admonishment of Bale:
Let's not beat around the bush: Bale has gone on strike. Andre Villas-Boas said on Sunday that the Welshman was expected in for training on Tuesday, but he never arrived. There have been suggestions that Bale will be fined two weeks' wages for his unauthorised absence. Can you even begin to imagine the intensity of the media storm if this was Luis Suarez or Wayne Rooney?
Even Suarez, the toerag's toerag, has continued to turn up for training sessions. Doubtless his machinations continue in the background, but he is at least fulfilling the terms of the contract that his agent apparently failed to read properly last summer.
Bale has turned over his club for his own gain, throwing his toys out of the pram until he got his own way. That doesn't make him any different from the majority of modern footballers, but it does mean that he relinquishes the right to leave the room smelling of roses.
Fair points, especially the last one. Tottenham supporters have the right to feel as they will of Bale at this point.
But not every public voice conspires against Bale's honor. Wales coach John Hartson—who, admittedly, still has a very serious interest in remaining on good terms with Bale—came to the defense of the player.
His comments, via BBC Sport:
I think Tottenham are being a bit ridiculous over that. I don't think Gareth's to blame there. Gareth's probably a bit confused and probably a bit frustrated with what's going on right now.
I think it was the sensible thing [to miss training]. If he goes into training, all of a sudden all the cameras are on him and everything else. I think they should cut him a bit of slack.
It's a fair point, Hartson's allegiances aside. Imagine the circus that would surround Bale—and would inevitably be a distraction for his Spurs "teammates"—were he to show up for training.
Gareth, Gareth, did you push for a move away from Spurs? Gareth, Gareth, did the English press drive you to Spain? Gareth, Gareth, do you really think you are on par with previous Galacticos? Gareth, Gareth, who has better hair, you or Cristiano Ronaldo? Gareth, Gareth, on a scale of one to 10, how antsy are you to see this transfer completed? Gareth, Gareth, were you ever really injured, or did you just want to stay away from the club until a move went through? Gareth, Gareth, how do you say "overpriced" in Spanish?
And so on and so forth.
And beyond the awkwardness with the teammates that he's leaving and the press circus to follow, there are psychological aspects to this as well. Have you ever taken a new job and had two weeks left on the other job you were willingly leaving?
It's pretty excruciating, right? You've mentally checked out at one place and you're simply ready to get the next chapter of your life started.
Except in this scenario, you're about to go to the biggest club in the world, an entire summer of speculation has accompanied your name in countless articles written and rewritten daily, and all you want to do is try to earn your spot on a talented team with a glut of elite attacking midfielders.
You know people want to know if you have the stuff to make it at Real Madrid, if you can carve out a spot ahead of some truly gifted footballers, and all you want to do is prove you can hack it.
But hold your horses, Gareth, because you have to go train with Tottenham, and you're supposed to show up and pretend like you're happy to still be there.
Come on. What good does that do anyone?
Spurs should take the high road and squash any proposed fines for Bale. Spurs have taken all summer moving on from the player, signing several excellent replacements and using his sale to improve the club. They've literally taken all summer finalizing a deal with Real Madrid—what player wouldn't be frustrated and impatient after that?
Tottenham has taken the time to move on from the player—perhaps he should be granted the same courtesy and be allowed his wish to remain separate from the club until this inevitable sale finally, mercifully, is completed.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets know the Spanish word for "overpriced" is caro. Side note: My tweets had to use Google Translate.