MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Bale circus is a shame... for him
11:02am Tuesday 27th August 2013 in Sport
File photo dated 08/05/2013 of Tottenham's Gareth Bale. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday August 13, 2013. Gareth Bale has refused to comment on speculation linking him with a world-record move to Real Madrid this summer. See PA story SOCCE
IT’S quite a dilemma, deciding whether to join the masses currently writing about Wales’s superstar Gareth Bale.
I think we can all agree he’s a gentleman being scrutinised and discussed quite enough – I’d argue in a horrendously over the top manner – and many will point out, quite rightly, that I’m hardly impartial.
It should come as no surprise that 99% of football journalists support a specific team. Many (perhaps wisely) won’t admit as to who they follow, many pretend they don’t support a club, while others just tell the truth.
Any long-time reader of this column knows I’m in the latter group. Why pretend otherwise? My yearly enjoyment of life is generally ruined by Tottenham and being a football fan is part of the reason I’m a sports reporter.
While some County fans get aggravated I don’t support the Exiles, others I have told me that they like the fact I understand the mentality of a football fan, because I never pretend I’m not one.
However, on the subject of Bale I felt it best to sit and suffer in silence. Any column on Bale can’t ignore the fact the media coverage of him this summer has been appalling, and it’s really not the done thing to criticise your peers.
How could I not come across as bitter and resentful as a Tottenham fan when Bale’s brilliance is so integral to our hopes? All issues I’m happy to acknowledge. But it’s time some analysis was given to the deal that will see Real Madrid make Whitchurch’s Gareth Bale the most expensive footballer to ever live.
A major advantage of being in the group of journalists who acknowledge who they support is that you know I’m not lying when I say there are few people in the Welsh media who’ve watched more of Bale in the past six years than I have.
Because of that I’d argue it’s not a cut and shut case that he’s currently the third best player in the world, I think it’s fairer to say (and still a huge compliment) that he currently sits below Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo among a clutch of phenomenal talents.
Andreas Iniesta, Neymar, Falcao, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Edinson Cavani, Xavi, this is the calibre of player Bale has become, some would say surpassed.
Last year he was sublime, the culmination of all the promise he showed under Harry Redknapp coming to fruition under Andre Villas-Boas. The space created by the Rafael Van der Vaart shaped hole Spurs characteristically created on transfer deadline day was filled by a guy who the year before fans were demanding played on the left wing only.
AVB has taken Bale’s game to extraordinary new heights and for sheer excitement, pace, power, panache and positivity – always look to do something special – Bale was without peer in England last term.
That was with a good team – almost a Champions League team, again – built around him. There are three Welsh teams in the Premier League when Cardiff go up, they joked, Swansea, Cardiff and Gareth Bale.
That he’s attracted Real Madrid’s attention is no surprise and that he’s keen to move isn’t either. The reputation Bale has as a stay-at-home quiet kid who wouldn’t say boo to a goose is nonsense. Away from the camera’s and in the confines of the dressing room he’s extroverted and he’s a rounded, well brought-up guy who feels he can adjust to living abroad, even at 24.
No-one is worth the crazy fees paid today, but Bale’s worth to Tottenham is almost immeasurable and they are right to try and get the most possible for him, especially as he penned a new deal just a year ago. How could people not expect Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to drag his feet? He always does.
However, it’s regrettable Bale is now not playing football, be it for Spurs or Madrid. I saw his last Spurs performance, at Swindon in pre-season, and he still looked electric, scored a cracker too. Why isn’t he playing? Because of the pantomime his move has become. The media have played their part.
The chief offenders are Real Madrid propaganda machine Marca, the Madrid-based paper that nails their colours to the mast. For weeks and weeks they reported spurious quotes attributed to Daniel Levy, the English papers rightly ignored them.
But the Press in the UK have shown equal disrespect to Tottenham. What business do the Welsh media have, asking Swansea striker Michu if Bale should go to Madrid?
When Arsenal make a late play for Michu later this week, how will Swansea fans feel if the Welsh press start getting people to say Arsenal a bigger club and they will improve him as a player? Irritated. Because like Spurs, Swansea don’t want to lose their best player.
Trust me when I tell you, in the past week Justin Edinburgh was asked more about Bale than he was about Newport County. Do we really need a week of stories about Madrid erecting a stage at Santiago Bernabéu?
Each day the English press have proclaimed sensational developments in the deal when nothing was actually happening. Now there is widespread belief Spurs chairman Levy is angry and in no rush to complete; bad news for the British reporters who’ve been in Madrid since the middle of last week.
Most pertinently, I don’t understand why so many in Wales aren’t at the least, concerned for what this means for Bale’s international future - amid being excited and thrilled for the status he’s about to enjoy.
Will Madrid allow Bale a free-hand to ALWAYS play for Wales, as Tottenham did? Will they not want to protect such a huge asset? People point that there has rarely been conflict with Ronaldo and Portugal, but will Madrid afford Wales the same respect as Portugal? They hardly merit it, 50-years in the wilderness with average home crowds well under 10,000?
Similarly, I’d argue it would be a minor miracle if Bale can replicate last season’s form this term, with a new life, new club and a new style to adapt to. At Tottenham Bale took all the set-pieces and was the player everyone looked to give the ball to at all times. Good luck with getting the same treatment from Ronaldo!
The final drawback of him going is tragic in its simplicity; we will see much less of him. La Liga is available on Sky Sports, but the coverage isn’t as comprehensive. Bale is a huge loss for the Premier League.
I wish him nothing but the best and thank him for some amazing memories. I just can’t say the same for those who have turned his potential transfer into a summer long circus.
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