x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Gareth Bale should know record transfer is no guarantee for glory

Gareth Bale must beware that a scan of the list of record transfers in football show medals and glory are not directly proportional to the contract cost.

Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale is awaiting a formal confirmation for a move to the big-spending Real Madrid. Ian Kington / AFP
Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale is awaiting a formal confirmation for a move to the big-spending Real Madrid. Ian Kington / AFP

Gareth Bale is not a happy man these days. So restless has he become in the past few weeks that he now refuses to train with his Tottenham Hotspur teammates.

Recently, he has been spotted looking grumpy behind the wheel of his car and, if Twitter is to be believed, has spent more time at airports than Edward Snowden. He was even been snapped wearing a matching pink T-shirt and baseball cap. Backwards, of course. A proposed €100 million (Dh489m) move to Real Madrid will do that to you.

It is all a bit unnecessary, Gareth. Cheer up, it is only a matter of time.

You know it, we know it, and Tottenham certainly know it. So do Real Madrid, whose club shop is already stocked with "Bale 11" shirts. Any minute now, you will get your world-record-busting transfer to the self-styled biggest club in the world.

Before Bale heads of to Madrid's Barajas airport, perhaps he should take some time to consider exactly what he is getting himself into.

Since 1992, 10 players have broken the world transfer record. Gianluigi Lentini, Alan Shearer, (the Brazilian) Ronaldo, Denilson, Christian Vieri, Hernan Crespo, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It is a stellar selection. It is also one that consistently failed to deliver what their clubs paid the big bucks for. That is, sustained success on the two fronts that matter most: domestic European leagues and the Uefa Champions League.

The aggregate medals haul of those 10 players is surprisingly paltry: eight league and three Champions League medals. In that same period, Bale's fellow Welshman Ryan Giggs has won an incredible 13 league titles and two Champions League medals with his one and only club, Manchester United.

When you consider that Lentini - whose time at AC Milan was spent mostly injured or on the bench - accounts for three league titles and one European Cup, that tally begins to look even more dismal.

Five players - Shearer, Ronaldo, Denilson, Vieri and Crespo - failed to win a single domestic league or a Champions League medal at the record-busting clubs.

The last four players to break the record - Figo, Zidane, Kaka and Ronaldo - meanwhile, have helped Real Madrid to three league titles and one European Cup in their time at Bale's future club. Hardly overwhelming value for such big money.

As ever, such stats come with caveats. In Bale's defence, he, unlike Giggs at Old Trafford, is hardly guaranteed yearly success at White Hart Lane. And with a few exceptions (Denilson, anyone?), the record signings themselves have mostly gone on to have exceptional careers.

Cristiano Ronaldo, in particular, has taken his individual game to new heights since his arrival at the Bernabeu. Still, his obsessive personal duel with Lionel Messi for title of best player in the world is not what the club paid €93.9 million for in the summer of 2009.

Now the club with a fetish for breaking the transfer record are at it again.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, Albert Einstein famously said. Perhaps the 20th century's greatest mind was foretelling Madrid's flawed policy of signing galacticos.

Bale, at 24, is their latest trophy signing, and he arrives with the added personal pressure of having achieved very little in his career, so far. Or as his critics might point out, precisely nothing.

At that age, Ronaldo had already claimed three English Premier League titles, one Champions League, two FA Cups, two League Cups and a Fifa Club World Cup with Manchester United.

He also won the Ballon d'Or, in 2008, and reached a Euro final (2004) and World Cup semi-final (2006) with Portugal.

Whether playing alongside CR7 or replacing him, Bale has a lot to live up to.

That Bale is a brilliant, explosive player in his own right is beyond dispute. Just ask the Premier League defences he came up against last season.

The ridiculous price tag, too, is hardly his fault.

Of course, a big transfer fee and success at club level are not mutually exclusive, simply that one is not a guarantee of the other. The previous four record breakers bear witness to that.

Bale's days as a Tottenham player are numbered. In the next few days he will be moving on to what he believes are bigger and better things.

In the future he may look back on his last days in North London and wonder whether he made a terrible decision, one he can never take back.

Pink ensembles aside, he may even come to realise that becoming the most expensive player in the world is not all it is cracked up to be.


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