As Liverpool edge towards an improbable league title and Tottenham fade away, many have taken the opportunity to compare the differing fortunes of the two clubs. Both teams started the season having finished outside the top four and were looking to break through this season. Both (initially) had young managers with much to prove. Tottenham have slipped up, unable to take advantage of Manchester United’s slide, whilst Liverpool have soared up the table and are now serious contenders, if not favorites, for the title. The obvious question is what did Spurs do wrong and what did Liverpool do right?
Some cite the impact of Liverpool sticking by their manager Brendan Rodgers despite a poor season last year. Others would point to Liverpool’s British base of talent and the rejuvenation of Steven Gerrard as both player and leader. Liverpool’s lack of European football has also been suggested as a factor. All these points may have their merits. But there is one oft-repeated point that is irksome: the Suarez-Bale debate.
The argument goes that Tottenham’s big mistake was selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid while Liverpool stuck to their guns by refusing to sell Luis Suarez. Suarez has since become one of the world’s best footballers at Liverpool. Bale is still one of the world’s best but now plays for Real Madrid, not Tottenham. If only Spurs had held their nerve and not sold their talisman, they could be where Liverpool are now.
This view however, is seriously misguided.
This isn’t to say that Spurs are somehow a better team without Bale. They clearly aren’t this season. What is strange is this comparison between the two situations, as if both players and teams were in identical positions going into this season. There appears to have been a kind of collective amnesia amongst the media, pundits and the wider soccer-watching public. People seem to have forgotten about everything that happened with Suarez last season and the season before and they have also forgotten about Bale’s situation at Tottenham. So let’s call this article a mythbuster: Why the Suarez and Bale sagas shouldn’t be compared.
The Real Madrid Campaign
When most football fans think about Gareth Bale now, the main thing they remember is last season where Bale was scoring wonder goals every other day. After that, perhaps the month long transfer saga that was the prelude to Bale’s eventual move to Madrid. What seems to have been forgotten is that Real Madrid were strongly linked with Bale the season before. As it turned out, it was only Luka Modric who left that summer but the link was already made and Bale made no secret of his desire to play abroad. This was not, as it seems to have been remembered, a case of Real Madrid suddenly making a big play for Bale last summer. This was a move that was nurtured carefully, and consistently pushed along by the biggest club in the world. The culmination was last year’s saga, but this had been on the cards for much longer.