Just when you thought Real Madrid was having a relatively quiet summer on the transfer front, Gareth Bale’s name pops up in the Spanish papers and every outlet is trying to one up the other in providing “up to the minute” updates on the situation. Everything from the transfer fee, Bale’s demands, and potential players Spurs would get in return has dominated the headlines. Assuming that a deal is imminent, is Gareth Bale a signing Real Madrid need? Is he worth the reported fees being bandied about?
To answer the first question, one needs to look at the current Real Madrid squad. The squad is loaded with attacking midfielders and wingers. Ozil, Isco, Modric, Kaka, di Maria, Jese, and Cristiano Ronaldo — they’re all players who occupy the attacking midfield and wings. Without Bale, Carlo Ancelotti already faces a selection headache trying to fit these players in his starting 11. Bale is a talented player, but it’s hard to imagine what he would add that Ronaldo isn’t already providing. Like Ronaldo, Bale is a finisher and has never been seen as a playmaker. As a direct replacement for Ronaldo, I could see why a move would be considered. Given that Ronaldo has already announced that he’s staying for at least another season, signing Bale would be redundant and could cause issues with the balance of the squad.
A potential Bale signing also hurts the development of Real’s young players. Alvaro Morata and Jese have been impressive in tournaments this summer and have bright futures ahead. Isco was just signed and there were already questions about where he would fit in with Ozil and Modric in the fold. There’s also Angel di Maria, who struggled last season, but is still a fantastic player when on form. If the club is focusing on developing youth from the Cantina and building a solid Spanish based core, signing Bale does nothing to encourage that. Instead, it harbors back to the Galacticos policy Perez had during his first term as club president. That policy had a disastrous impact on the club as Barcelona overtook Real Madrid during that time. Real Madrid have a world class attack, and adding Gareth Bale is an expensive luxury the club do not need.
Is Gareth Bale worth the reported fee of $150 million? Despite his talents and success, he is not worth more than Cristiano Ronaldo. Bale’s career, while clearly on the upswing, has produced one great season. He certainly has the potential to one of the best players in the world, but he is not worth what he’s being reported to be sold for. The other factor to consider is Bale’s injury history. Bale’s injury record is far from ideal, last season notwithstanding. Injuries cannot be predicted, but Bale has had back, hamstring, and ankle issues throughout his career. He has missed significant portions of the last 4 seasons and at $150 million, that’s a lot for a player with an injury record like his.