Day one for Gareth Bale and Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. I say day one, but in reality it is closer to day one hundred and one since Madrid publicly began their passive aggressive pursuit of Wales’ finest. And to most of us it probably feels more like day one thousand and one, such was the tortuous nature of this summer’s most protracted transfer saga.
Tottenham’s Daniel Levy is of course notorious for driving a hard bargain, but the same can hardly be said for his spendthrift Madrileño counterpart, Florentino Pérez. A man who, if wikipedia is to be believed, has spent almost €950 million on player fees (please don’t ask for wages to be factored into the calculation) in a decade at the helm of the good ship Madrid. Levy saw Luka Modric swap north London for Madrid in 2012 for around €10 million less than his value according to Chelsea’s bid the previous year. I think we can agree he has now made up for any perceived loss in that deal.
Such financial shenanigans are neither here nor there to the latest Galáctico of course – he’d have joined for a penny apparently. Bale loved being at Spurs but his silence throughout the summer spoke volumes for where he wanted to be come September 2nd. With Tottenham missing out on the champions league in agonising fashion, despite his Roy Race-esque heroics last season, surely few in the White Hart Lane faithful will begrudge him this move. The enduring feeling at Tottenham will be gratefulness for what he gave the club (on the pitch and the balance sheet), pride at what he may well go on to accomplish, and perhaps a lingering affection that will manifest itself via continuous flirting in late night text messages and his name being read out last when Madrid visit Spurs for the second leg of a Champions League last 16 game in a few years time.
His dream has come true now. He said as much in a brave attempt at Spanish during his presentation this afternoon. Such sentiments, and having a crack at conveying them in the native tongue, will get him off on the right foot here. As will the photo of the young Bale, ears and all, giving a victory salute in a circa 2001 Madrid top coupled with today’s kiss of the club badge.
But it will inevitably be his left foot deeds on the pitch that will determine how the Madridistas take to El Galés in the long run. And they tend to be a demanding and fickle lot, particularly when it comes to foreign imports. Perform like Zizou and you’re fine. But it only takes a few below par days at the office from otherwise exceptional footballers before the piercing whistles rain down from the vertigo-inducing stands of the Santiago Bernabeu. Bale can ask Karim Benzema what that feels like.