Football, like the never-ending, ever-changing saga that it is, is never short of a great cast list. The good, the bad and the ugly. The heroes and the villains.
In the latest saga that has been the Gareth Bale to Madrid marathon, there is no doubt that the men from the Bernabeu have been cast as the baddies in the dark hats.
Despite their white shirts and their nickname the ‘Blancos’, they are the black-hearted villains of this saga, riding roughshod over their downtrodden opponents and kidnapping the London club’s favourite son.
And they're doing it with an ‘unethical’ fee that was duly criticized by the new Barcelona manager, Tata Martino.
The facts, however, paint a different picture. Something much more complicated.
Madrid are, in my opinion, over-paying on the 100 million euro transfer fee for one player (and the figure will raise to more than 110 depending on objectives met), and in so doing are giving Tottenham the ammunition to reinforce their squad.
Tottenham meanwhile are giving money to Valencia (Roberto Soldado), PSG are giving money to Napoli (Cavani), and Napoli are giving it back to Madrid (Higuaín) in a mutual feeding frenzy; and that’s how the footballing world goes around.
Lower down the food chain medium clubs buy from smaller clubs (e.g. Hélder Postiga from Zaragoza to Valencia) to replace bigger names, and so it goes on. Football feeds itself merely so it can keep going, albeit with some dining on lobster, others on sardines.
What is indisputable, however, is that, with a worth of 2.5 billion euros and 500 million euros a year in terms of income, Madrid are the biggest club in the world.
If they want that to continue, not only will they always want the best players, they will always need them—that is their business model. At the moment Bale is perceived as the best in the Premiership by a mile, and an investment proportionate to what they can spend.
But before judging football’s rich boys too harshly, realise this: Madrid may well have spent, including the purchase of Bale, around 160 million euros in this window, but they have also recouped something in the region of 80 million in sales (more if Oezil is finally sold for 45 plus 5).
Contrast this with the fact that, at the time of writing, £146 million pounds has been spent by Monaco against a mere £5.5 recouped in sales.
Just how this (and PSG and City are similar examples) is going to square with football’s governing bodies when the Financial Fair Play people come a-calling is anybody’s guess.
Remember also that before we brand Real as the profligate killers of the beautiful game, that in the last 12 years they have spent almost exactly the same amount of money as Chelsea and that in that time the league that has spent most has been the Premiership.
Is it wrong that the English clubs spend so much? Is it wrong that Real Madrid spend so much? Such a similar question and often with contrasting answers.
There have always been top players and they have always gone for top money, but the fact is that even the Premier League has spent less this window than it has in the past eight years.
If you take out the Bale deal, there is considerably more money come in to the Spanish game than gone out of it. The truth is that in Spain—the top two apart perhaps—in footballing terms, just about everyone’s for sale.
But, for some reason, big expenditure in football will always be considered obscene. I don’t really get why.