Gareth Bale appears bound for Spain.
The Tottenham Hotspur star winger has been sitting on a move to Real Madrid for the past few weeks, but his Premier League club has yet to pull the trigger despite a near record-setting deal reportedly being on the table.
In the event that Bale's La Liga transfer is completed before the Sept. 2 deadline, the 24-year-old will face the most intense pressure of his career alongside Carlo Ancelotti, Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of Los Blancos at the Bernabeu this season.
How he handles that pressure could define the next phase of his career.
Coming off a season in which he scored 21 goals in 34 Premier League matches for Spurs, Bale's value has never been higher. That, along with his desire to play in the Champions League this season, have served as motivation for Tottenham to listen to offers despite his integral role with the club.
Even before his strong campaign during the 2012-13 EPL season, Bale had been earmarked as a player with a bright future.
Now, he's become one of the most sought-after players in Europe since the transfer window opened. His future—along with the futures of Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez—has been one of the most talked-about aspects of the transfer window this summer.
According to the Herald Sun, via Spanish paper AS, Madrid is on the verge of a deal with Tottenham for Bale that will approach €91 million (roughly £78 million or $135 million). Those figures wouldn't be enough to eclipse what Madrid paid for Ronaldo (€94 million) in 2009.
Reports have differed on the actual amount Los Blancos are offering for Bale; BBC Sport reported that the bid was £86 million on the same day Bale apparently came to "personal terms" with Madrid over his wages.
No matter the fee, there are other factors making Bale's impending exit filled with pressure.
As noted by David Hytner of the Guardian, Bale has been skipping some of Tottenham's workouts despite his official status as a Spurs player.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas ripped into Bale for his actions, calling his professionalism into question earlier this week and criticizing his behavior despite the virtual certainty that his days at White Hart Lane are over.
Bale has not played in either of Tottenham's EPL matches this season.
Between the money, the expectations he will feel at Real Madrid and some of his actions over the past few weeks, it's painfully clear that the proverbial target will be on Bale's back in Spain. Regardless of whether it's fair or not, his performance will come into question seemingly on a weekly basis.
KickTV's Jimmy Conrad confers:
Gareth Bale is going to be the Barry Zito of the "beautiful game" when this transfer to Real Madrid finally goes through. Too much pressure.— Jimmy Conrad (@JimmyConrad) August 28, 2013
As does Hotspur Related, who posted this quote on Bale from former football manager and player Ruud Gullit on Twitter:
Gullit: "The pressure on Bale will be enormous because of the amount of his transfer fee and because it is Real Madrid." #THFC— Hotspur Related (@HotspurRelated) August 25, 2013
It's clear that the money and the prestige of the club will play a huge factor in the expectations that will follow Bale from White Hart Lane to the Bernabeu.
Zinedine Zidane knows how that pressure feels. The former Real Madrid star has offered to mentor Bale's on-pitch performance and his psyche away from the club in the event that Madrid can close the door on the long-expected transaction.
Los Blancos finished second in La Liga last year. They are behind the eight ball yet again this year as reigning league champion Barcelona welcomed Neymar and still have one of the most talented rosters in the world.
Bale, paired with Ronaldo or as his eventual replacement, would be tasked with helping Real Madrid reclaim the top league spot and make a deep run in the Champions League right away.
Pressure, thy name is Bale.
How will Bale handle newfound pressure in Spain?
According to Fox Sports, Tottenham is prepared to make Real Madrid wait until after their Sunday match with Arsenal to officially complete the move. That being said, 101 Great Goals, via AS, is also reporting that Bale has a room reserved for Monday night at Hotel Mirasierra in Madrid.
As long as everything is completed before the deadline, the timeline will likely be a distant memory when Bale is unveiled.
So will his standing as just another footballer from Wales.
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