Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Gareth Bale entitled to Real Madrid's riches but spare us the love-for-Spurs rot

Bale (right) has spoken of his gratitude to Andre Villas-Boas
Bale (right) has spoken of his gratitude to Andre Villas-Boas

However the affair progresses, Gareth Bale will do us an immense favour if he refrains from dressing up his impending move to Real Madrid as anything other than the seizing of a quite spectacular main chance.

No indictment is required from those who remember football when it was shaped, often with huge injustice to brilliantly talented players, by forces other than the screaming imperatives created by vast amounts of instant money. Bale and his agent are merely operating in the football world as it has become, not as it might have been if shaped by proper regulation and an intelligent, principled balance between the need of a club to build a team, and some basic loyalty, and the legitimate aspirations of an outstanding individual.

As matters stand, Bale’s only obligation is to spare us the toe-curling rot about his love of the old cockerel badge and his gut-deep gratitude for the development he has enjoyed under Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas at White Hart Lane.

Remember – you can hardly have forgotten because it came so recently – all that guff about the inspiring influence of AVB, how he was finding new areas in which the astonishing gifts of the Welshman might flourish. It didn’t end there. Bale felt the force of the Spurs tradition, the love of the crowd and it might well persuade him to linger at least another year in north London.

Now we are being primed to anticipate another familiar song. It’s the one about seizing a moment and never regretting a failure of nerve when a whole new career lay suddenly before you, dazzling with undreamt promise. Where was loyalty then? Where else but the fallow ground of missed opportunities?

We will hear much of the allure of the Champions League and Spurs fans will, if Bale’s move to the Bernabeu goes through, have cause to sigh at the memory of the impact their hero had the last time the club operated at that level. They will remember the astounding hat-trick at San Siro and the unforgettable ambush of the celebrated Inter full-back Maicon in the return game at White Hart Lane. They will linger on that heady, now splintered belief that a great tradition might indeed have come alive again with the force of a mesmerising talent.

Maybe Bale’s agent will tell us that of all the factors moving the deal, beyond his own cut in a transfer-record shattering deal, the greatest was Bale’s unchallengeable right not only to become inordinately rich but also to fulfil his career destiny.

How could Bale turn down the blandishments of the fabled Real? You might, just possibly, venture that one reason could be that in many ways they have become a caricature of what a great football club – arguably the greatest – is supposed to be. You could say that they have a record of under-achievement which even the ultimate results man, Jose Mourinho, could only partly arrest and at the price of systematic abuse from all quarters within the Bernabeu. You could suggest that they currently have a team ethos as shockingly derelict as the one Manuel Pellegrini is now charged with repairing at Manchester City.

Bale, maybe still, has something at Tottenham which is increasingly rare and which in a better ordered world might be considered precious. It is to be at the heart of the ambitions of a significant club which in recent years has produced the most compelling evidence that the upper echelons of the Premier League, and maybe the European game, can be penetrated with the help of something more than vast resources.

Borussia Dortmund, under the superb coaching and easy, humane touch of their coach Jürgen Klopp, came within a heart-beat of proving it at Wembley in May and what a celebration of decent values that would have been. Before the game there was much talk that it was fortunate the magnificent young Mario Götze was injured because he would have faced an appalling split in his loyalties had he been required to play against his new club, Bayern, after a transfer which, at £32m, is still the fifth-biggest deal of the summer spending.

This was unbridled nonsense and if you doubted it you only had to look into the youngster’s face when events began to turn against the team in which he had grown so strong and so brilliantly.

It was a glimpse into a fast-disappearing world where young players like a Götze, or Bale, could gather around them all the hopes and dreams of an ambitious, rising football club. You only have to look at the summer spending table to understand the pressure on such a concept with three of the four top deals sending outstanding players to such new riches as PSG and Monaco.

Bale has certainly walked the walk, with performances to sear the consciousness of every upwardly striving football organisation under the sun, and he has talked the talk of loyalty and affection and even patience.

Now it comes down to a single moment of decision. It is, as we were saying, one proofed against sanction or indictment. He has been made free by the mores of a game where the fight for love and glory some time ago ran second to the need for the best timed and most lucrative deal. All else is kidology of an especially despicable kind.

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