Gareth Bale and 100 million Euros are two terms that will always go hand in hand for the foreseeable future at least.
The Welshman’s record-breaking move to Real Madrid set a new, mind-boggling transfer record and left many scratching their heads at just what extent player valuation and power has degenerated into the insane.
Real Madrid’s president however, lives for the insane. He, after all, is the man behind the initial ‘Galactico’ revolution that resulted in shocking moves and headline making transfer fees for some of the world’s biggest stars moving to the ‘White House’.
We have seen enormous amounts paid for players such as Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Robinho, Kaka and the biggest of them all, one Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, none of them raised as many eyebrows as Bale’s arrival in the Spanish capital.
It was not as much for the transfer fee as it was for the player. It was a hundred million for Bale, a player who had only had two seasons at the very highest level. Plus, he is Welsh, by extension British, ideally undeserving of such a price tag, as is the archaic perception among some football fans and observers.
Signed for such an enormous amount of money (enough to run some countries budgets for a few months), Bale had much to live up to, and although still short of full fitness, his performance on Saturday in his Clasico debut was desperately disappointing.
The Welshman went missing for long spells and criticism was harsh and immediate. Voices against his sale propped up everywhere, with some questioning his talent, the timing of the transfer and whether the politics of Madrid would be an overwhelming stumbling block.
One thing everyone forgot was that this was no ordinary player from the British aisles. This was a man who was once a boy discarded and dismissed to be without talent.
This was a boy who had bone development problems while growing up, and was overlooked when bigger clubs came calling upon his former Southampton side to recruit the best potential talents.
Theo Walcott, his close friend and academy mate was snapped up by Arsenal and left him behind, even though he was also in consideration.
When he finally was recruited by Tottenham, he was shoved into the left-back slot and struggled in that position. Bale was once taunted by club and rival fans alike because of his record of never being on a winning Spurs side, and at one point, the club considered off-loading him, but they could not find a buyer willing to meet their valuation of the player.
So, they were stuck with a problem, a curse….little did they know they had a blessing in disguise, a 100 million Euros one at that.
Bale was moved upfield to the left-wing by Harry Redknapp and transformed into a lethal winger. The added space and freedom afforded to him on the wing allowed him to make maximum use of his ridiculous pace and sweet left-foot.
Bale became a completely new player and earned a permanent first-team spot. He took the league by storm and started laying on assists on a regular basis. He won the PFA Young Player of the Year award soon after, but the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas skyrocketed his fortunes.
The Portuguese moved him into a more central role after Redknapp had toyed with that idea and he thrived, scoring a career-high 21 goals and winning his second PFA award.
The boy was becoming a man in emphatic fashion. Then along came Real Madrid.
In essence what I am trying to say in so many words is that Bale has been there, right at the bottom of the barrel. He has had to overcome challenge after challenge, adapt his game, build his confidence and above all, work hard.
His rise to prominence has been no fluke; the kid has matched the talent with unwavering ambition.
His stop-start beginning at Madrid was a small mole-hill compared to the mountains he has had to face. The criticism was too eager, too harsh and knee-jerk even. It was undeserving for a man who has had to prove himself time and again and against Sevilla on Wednesday, Gareth Bale silenced his critics once more.
It is only the first page in many more chapters in the white of Madrid. 100 million euros may just end up being nothing but a bygone tagline for the Welsh wizard.
Viva Gareth, tepid to epic.
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