Belfast Telegraph

Playing for Real Madrid is everything to Gareth Bale

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

With John Laverty

So Gareth Bale is on his way to Madrid. The only questions remaining now relate to what day he's actually joining them and how big that world-record fee is going to be.

I've read in various quarters this week that Bale's decision was based on the fact that his current employers Tottenham Hotspur finished only fifth in the Premier League and could therefore not offer the player the Champions League football he craved.

This is, of course, complete and utter nonsense.

Had Spurs, bless them, won the Prem title every single season Bale was at White Hart Lane; hell, had they even won the Champions League... yes, the Welshman would still have wanted to join Real Madrid.

There are three clubs in world football – Real, Barcelona and Manchester United – that aspiring players simply don't turn down.

I'm old enough to remember when United had been relegated from the top flight – and STILL had some of the top stars in Britain clamouring to join them in the old Second Division.

Most of the time, you only get one chance to join one of the world's top clubs and, as Real coach Zinedine Zidane said yesterday, this could be Bale's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Zidane, remember, cost Real a world record fee himself, forsaking Juventus for the thrill of being one of the 'Galacticos' of the Bernabeu alongside Carlos, Figo, Beckham and the fat Ronaldo.

They didn't quite add up to the sum of their parts, however, but none of them really cared. Playing for Real was always going to be more important than winning things with Real.

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