“The Club can announce that it has signed a partnership agreement with Real Madrid FC and reached agreement for the transfer of Luka Modric, subject to medical, to the Spanish club. The partnership agreement will see the two Clubs working together in respect of players, coaching, best practices and commercial relationships.”
– tottenhamhotspur.com, 27 August 2012 (link)
Back in late August of last year, that first quote listed prompted a wide variety of responses. What was this “partnership” with Real Madrid? Many Spurs fans — myself included — nervously joked that it probably meant little more than Los Blancos having first right of refusal on Gareth Bale. We all hoped it was more to do with youth player exchanges, coaching co-ops, and a piggy backing of Madrid’s marketing might. But deep down, we all questioned how a club known for its relentless tapping up strategies could truly be a partner with world-class players there for them to cherry pick.
And here we find ourselves, a year on from that initial statement, a second statement from the club all but confirming our fears:
“The Club can announce that it has reached agreement with Real Madrid for the transfer of Gareth Bale.
– tottenhamhotspur.com, 1 September 2013 (link)
I’m not necessarily mad that Tottenham have sold Bale to Real Madrid — okay, that’s a bit of a lie — but as even the most ardent and delusional of Spurs supporters was aware of, our time with the Welshman was always going to be limited given his performances over the last three seasons.
That night he lit the San Siro on fire in the Champions League two seasons ago? The beginning of the end. Bale’s ascension since has been steep, and his price tag along has raised along with it. And with one eye on the balance sheet and another on a new stadium, the combination of inflated value and increased demand was always going to be something that chairman Daniel Levy was going to have a field day with. Bale leaving, no matter how much any of us wanted him to stay, was always inevitable. Who he went to mattered very little so long as Spurs’ valuation for the player was met. And with Levy, that’s never in doubt.
In its most simple terms, it appears the partnership forged between Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and Real Madrid Club de Fútbol was just an agreement to give Spurs roughly £135 million in exchange for our two best players. Madrid may have wanted that number to be lower, and Spurs probably wanted it to be a bit higher. But there’s no reason to get too bent out of shape about that aspect of it. The power vacuum sucks the best players to the biggest clubs. It’s normal business in the game of modern football.
But what I, and many other Spurs fans, would like to know is how a supposed “partner” would deliberately harm us. And that’s exactly what Real Madrid did when they chose to use their typical nefarious means to unsettle Bale this summer, and then when they chose to sell German international Mesut Özil to our bitter rivals Arsenal on Transfer Deadline Day™.
I won’t spend too much time dwelling on how Madrid tapped up Bale, as there have been acres of columns written by many on the subject. If nothing else, let me just say that I’ve lost a lot of respect for Zinedine Zidane in the process.
As for Özil, I’m still absolutely bewildered as to how he was ever considered to be surplus to requirements at Real. Spanish wunderkind Isco’s arrival at the start of the summer may explain that to an extent, but that leaves them thin with only a single player of that ilk. And while Bale is capable of playing through the middle, he’s not exactly a creator in the same sense that Özil is. The German midfield maestro has been magnificent since his €15 million move from Werder Bremen three years ago and is generally considered one of the finest #10’s in the game.
Additionally, rumors were circulating in the lead up to TDD that the Gunners were instead in the hunt for Özil’s teammate, French striker Karim Benzema. And speculation (at least among Tottenham circles) was that Levy was dragging his feet on selling Bale to Madrid to attempt to prevent Arsenal from having enough time to wrap up that particular deal. Although that always seemed unlikely, given that Los blancos lacked another central striker. Either way, Özil never seemed on the radar.
Whatever the reason for Levy’s delays, Real Madrid were reportedly pretty miffed with how long it took for the Bale deal to be finalized. And if the rumors are to be believed, the Spanish club were more open to dealing Özil — due to perceived depth, Özil’s high desirability, and a large return on investment — to Spurs’ most hated of rivals for no reason other than spite over the entire ordeal. Even if the theory of Madrid spiting Spurs is little more than wild speculation, at bare minimum, you would expect that Real Madrid would know that selling Özil to Arsenal would make us angry, right?
So whether it was Madrid being circumstantially naive, or if it actually is them attempting to hurt Spurs… that doesn’t exactly seem like something a partner should be doing.
Luckily, I’m not the only Spurs fan who’s up in arms over the entire situation. The official Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust has publicly inquired what the value of this “partnership” is for the club. And predictably, the club is taking its sweet ass time putting together an answer. Though whatever that manufactured answer ends up being, we’ll probably still never know the whole truth behind the situation.
Long story short, while I’m sad to see Bale head off in search of greener pastures, I’m more upset with is how Tottenham have paraded about a partnership that appears to be little more than giving Real Madrid first right of refusal on our best players. I worry that means that if Real comes sniffing around Vertonghen, Lloris or even Lamela in a few years’ time, that we’ll happily divest with them too. And since Madrid don’t appear to be particularly keen on buying our players on our terms — both price and timing — I’m not exactly sure why were giving them the privilege in the first place. Especially when they’ll go behind our backs and strengthen our enemies.
That’s not a partnership. That’s exploitation. And I, for one, think it’s time we put an end to it. Here’s hoping Daniel Levy and the board agree.