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[Published: Tuesday August 06 2013]


By Patrick Owen-Smith

Madrid/London, 5 August. -(ANA) - Every summer, the football transfer window is a time of rampant rumour and expectation. Fans scour message boards and gossip sites in order to gleam (usually inaccurately) who their club might be signing, while the media throws in a mixture of facts and falsehoods in order to entice a purchase of a newspaper or magazine at a time when there is no actual significant football to write or talk about.

In the meantime, those managing and funding football clubs around the globe search desperately for those players whose arrival may make all the difference by the end of the upcoming season.

It has been the case in recent years that a single transfer will end up overshadowing all its seasonal counterparts and dominating the media throughout the summer months.

Three prominent examples of this are Cristiano Ronaldo’s world record $125 million (£80m, 100m euros) move from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009; Cesc Fabregas’ return to Barcelona from Arsenal two years later; and perhaps the most famous of all, the transfer of David Beckham in 2003 for the now almost unbelievably small fee (by modern football standards) of just $50 million (at today’s prices). As with Ronaldo six years later, Real Madrid was Beckham’s destination, Manchester United the club he left.

Two things stand out from the examples provided, namely the prominence of Real Madrid when it comes to acquiring players, and also the trend of players moving from Britain to Spain. Obviously, there are many high profile and expensive transfers that have taken place between clubs in other countries, but few names pervade in world football like Real Madrid or Barcelona. Any wish of theirs to sign a prominent English Premier League player carries that much more weight and significance.

Such is the case this summer, albeit belatedly. At the end of May, it seemed as though the transfer window’s stand out event would be Brazilian “wonderkid” Neymar’s decision to sign for Barcelona for $76 million. His performances during Brazil’s successful Confederations Cup campaign in June only added to the hype.

Since then however, Neymar has slipped somewhat under the radar; the ease with which all the parties involved agreed a deal left the media with little to really build upon by July. In the past week though, their prayers for a summer defining transfer saga have been answered.

After two seasons (those less convinced by him will tell you that these were more two half-seasons) of outstanding performances, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale wants to join Real Madrid, and the football world finally has something “big” enough to speculate upon.

Bale has been linked with Madrid for a long time, but has always seemed happy at Tottenham. He signed an extended three-year contract last summer, and reports suggested that he had no wish to move a long distance away from his family in Wales. Bale tends to visit them when not given time off.

Yet the failure of his club to qualify for this season’s Champions League seems to have convinced Bale that his future lies abroad. The Welshman has now allegedly told Tottenham club chairman Daniel Levy that he wants to leave the club, and Real are ready to pounce with a reported £85 million (100 million euros).

In recent days the Real Madrid transfer strategy has started to grind into action. First, reports emerged within the Spanish newspaper Marca that Real had made a world-record bid for Bale. Marca is considered a semi-mouthpiece for Real, and it is rare that something like this would have been published without the go-ahead from officials high up within the club.

Club legends both past and present then expressed their admiration for Bale. Current club captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas described Bale as having “all the qualities a footballer needs”, while former superstar Zinedine Zidane, regarded as one of the most talented players ever, indicated that Tottenham should adhere to Bale’s wishes and grant him the chance to “become a better player”.

Should Real get their man (and it is rarely the case that they don’t), they will be buying a player who certainly has the potential to be one of the very best. Last season, it seemed that barely a week went by without Bale scoring a wonder-goal, and at 24 he has the potential to get even better.

As for the fee, reports have estimated that it will be between $98 and $160 million, with additional Real players potentially given to Tottenham as part of the deal. Is Bale worth it? Is anyone? For all the enjoyment that one can get out of football and transfer speculation, there is something of the ridiculous in some of the fees paid in the modern game. The sport must make sure that the financial aspect of football does not become more important than the sport itself. -(ANA)

AB/ANA/ 5 August 2013  - - -
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