I absolutely loath this topic.I don’t want to write about it. But the circumstances dictate that I must. I have to.
It pains me to just think about Gareth Bale leaving Tottenham Hotspur, let alone write about it and think about it logically.
Bale has been my favorite players since I unearthed him as a young Southampton starlet in FIFA Manager Mode back in college in 2006. He’s left footed, takes free kicks and used to play left back. All attributes I share, though admittedly to a far lesser fan fair and effect. So that practically makes us twins… from different moms, different countries and seven years in between our births. You get what I mean. If you still need further proof of my old school love, I have two Spurs shirts with Gareth’s name on the back: one of with the #3 and the other with the #16.
So talking about my favorite player from my favorite club leaving for greener pastures — even it is for sums so large as an insane £100 million+player TBD bid from Real Madrid — literally makes me want to explode.
Many, however, would argue that turning down that kind of money is equally ludicrous. When proposed, that argument is normally quickly followed by a series of supporting points ranging from “his value will never be higher” to “Madrid won’t be back for him if you say no now.” And most of those supporting arguments are correct.
But there is one argument that really grinds my gears, and it always sounds something like “you could take all that money and reinvest it by bringing in 3 to 4 top players.”
Hearing that literally makes my brain melt. It’s this kind of incredibly one-dimensional thinking that proves why fans should never run football teams. And to explain why, let’s take a quick look at football economics.
Let’s just assume that Real Madrid bid a firm £100 million, Daniel Levy accepts, and Bale heads off to Spain. It just sounds like a lot of money, doesn’t it? I could certainly retire right now if I were given it. It’s £20 million more than the previous world record transfer fee also paid by Real for the services of one Cristiano Ronaldo. Hell, it’s enough to buy a second MLS franchise in New York.
But in reality, that £100 million transfer fee gives Spurs far less room to play with than one might think.
These days, it’s pretty much safe to assume that the going rate for a very good attacking player — one that would instantly help to mitigate the loss of Bale — is roughly £20-30 million. For example Spurs look set to land Valencia striker Roberto Soldado for a club record fee of £25.6 million, or you could look at Bayern’s recent capture of Mario Götze for £32.4 million. So with £100 million of Bale money, Levy could buy — at the very most — four good attackers. Problem solved, right?
First, Spurs currently have a fairly strict wage ceiling at the club which is generally believed to be around £70,000 a week. They’ve only broken said wage ceiling for very special and deserving players like Bale: his most recent contract extension is thought to be worth £150,000 per week.
Unfortunately, convincing world class players to play for a team that doesn’t currently offer Champions League football requires paying them similarly-classed wages. So even if Levy were able to convince four great players to come in at the very top of Spurs’ wage ceiling, those four new players he just spent £100 million to acquire will also cost him at minimum £280,000 per week — or £130k a week more than he’s currently paying Bale. Compounded over an entire 52 week year, and suddenly Spurs find themselves £6.76 million dollars in the hole.
Secondly, does anyone really expect Spurs to spend a boatload of the proceeds when Levy is still in control? Historically, he’s not spent much of the profits the club has brought in on the first team squad. Think of the money earned during the Champions League run a few years back that has mysteriously not been spent on a striker to this point. And while I am of the mindset that Levy’s frugal transfer policy has benefited the club, I think it also means he’s just as likely to earmark most of the Bale sell-on fee for the new stadium project and feel content with Sigurðsson, Holtby or Dempsey playing through the middle. This is the Levy I’m used to, at least.
And third, there’s absolutely no guarantee that all or any new signing will pan out. You can spend £25 million on a great player like Soldado, and he may just never click within AVB’s squad. Manchester United have spent three-quarters of their Ronaldo money and they still haven’t found the right person to fill Cristiano’s sizable boots.
So maybe holding on to Bale makes more sense than exchanging him for £100 million of dirty Spanish money.
Maybe I’ve got too much emotion tied up in this whole thing, but I’d rather keep Bale — who we already know plays very well within AVB’s set up — and instead bring in one very good signing (Soldado) and maybe unearth a cheap gem or three (Paulinho, Chadli… and maybe Vlad Chiriches?). That lowers Spurs risk tremendously, as they’ve not sold a pivotal piece of the machine that’s just a key piece or two away from being something special.
What will happen? I don’t know. Had you asked me two weeks ago, I’d have told you there was no way. After all, he’s been signed on as the face of BT Sports’ new Premier League coverage, on the cover of FIFA ’13, and features on an 60 foot billboard in Times Square advertising the Premier League. Spurs wouldn’t allow all of that to happen, and then allow him to leave. They just couldn’t.
Sadly though — with an impossible-to-pass, record-smashing £100 million carrot being dangled in front of Levy’s face — it’s looking increasingly like that’s a reality I’ll be forced to swallow. Maybe we’ll reinvest some of it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it could just be used to cover the expenditures already done and dusted.
I’ve been wrong before. Here’s hoping I’m wrong again.