This article first appeared in Football.com
The summer transfer market is referred to as the “silly season” for a number of reasons. But the current Gareth Bale saga may forever transform the moniker to the “stupid season”.
The sheer absurdity of the figures being reported concerning the Welshman’s potential transfer to Real Madrid, alone, are a moral calamity, and should nauseate anyone paying the least bit of attention; particularly given the state of the Spanish economy.
(Alas, as my duty to this publication is not that of a social critic, I will refrain from any further rants unrelated to football.)
Within the confines of the footballing world, though, the “will he stay, or will he go,” soap opera is already proving troublesome in North London, especially for Andre Villas Boas.
One needn’t be a sage in order to realize that Tottenham was always going to be at the wrong end of the stick when rumors began swirling once again about Real Madrid’s interest in signing Bale. Last year, the North London club managed to hold on to its prized possession, when Mourinho came calling, and fortunately the short-lived courtship allowed the winger to focus on his game under new manager, Andre Villas Boas. This offseason has proven very different, with the Spanish club showing no financial restraint, and with Bale reportedly having expressed his desire to leave White Hart Lane for the Bernabeu.
The current impasse has seriously hamstrung AVB. Clearly, the Portuguese wants to keep the reigning Premiership player of the year. Were it not for Bale and his last-minute goals, one could make the case that the manager might have been on the hot seat at the end of last season.
That seat may already be heating up.
Without Bale, Tottenham looked woeful against big spenders, AS Monaco, last Saturday. Width and speed were obvious problems, but more troubling was the fact that Spurs looked devoid of ideas, and a clearly rattled AVB hardly inspired confidence.
Of course, no one should be pointing the finger at the Portuguese manager, as it is Daniel Levy, the club’s chairman, that is very much in control of proceedings – well, at least insofar as a club Chairman can be when his star player is being courted by a footballing behemoth. Some have made the case that Levy has played his cards extremely well, since his waiting game has forced Real Madrid to up the ante (considerably). However, it’s likely that only Tottenham’s coffers will benefit from this protracted affair, if it does indeed reach its expected conclusion, and Bale is shipped off to Madrid.
Transfer market dealings are capricious matters, and with three weeks left until the transfer window closes, both Levy and AVB would have little wiggle room to negotiate effectively, and bring the kind of impact player – or players – the club needs if it’s going to make a legitimate attempt at Champions League football, let alone at winning the league.
There are clubs that can walk that tight rope successfully. Nevertheless, some of Tottenham’s recent transfer dealings have done little to suggest that the void created by Bale’s departure would be appropriately filled. In the past year alone, the club has seen negotiations with priority targets crumble (Joao Moutinho being the most glaring example), and has signed expensive players who have either become surplus to requirements (Clint Dempsey), or have failed to impress (Gylfi Sigurdsson). It’s true that the club has already managed to snatch up Paulinho, and Roberto Soldado, but it’s doubtful that they’ll mirror Bale’s impact
One of Real Madrid’s reported offers did include sending Fabio Coentrao, Angel Di Maria, and Alvaro Morata as package deals to North London. The deal would probably be the best case scenario for AVB. Coentrao may not have won the hearts and minds of the Madridista faithful, but he would be a sure fit at one of the team’s trouble positions, while Di Maria would provide the width that was absent so often, last season. As for Morata, the young striker is a star in the making that could benefit tremendously from playing alongside Roberto Soldado. Unfortunately, it’s Morata’s inclusion that probably killed the deal, since Florentino Perez has come to believe that the young striker will become an integral piece of the Spanish national team.
Whatever the final deal ends up being, AVB is going to be the one picking up the pieces. In modern football, boardroom wheeling and dealing is felt at pitch level, and managers are the easy scapegoats. Even if Bale’s move fails to materialize, AVB will be in the very difficult position of having to appease his disgruntled star player. Failure to do so could mean the manager’s head, especially if Bale’s form dips as a result, and Tottenham finds itself not living up to expectations.
One has to feel a little sorry for AVB. Only a few weeks ago he was being linked to some of the most desired vacancies in the game, and now he’s caught in another situation he can do little about.