Real Madrid, Gareth Bale and why it’s not just about the football

At the Santiago Bernabeu, the stage is literally set for what could be the unveiling of the world’s most-expensive footballer. Gareth Bale’s proposed move from Tottenham to Real Madrid has understandably monopolised recent back pages as fans await the conclusion of a transfer saga that has left many questioning the financial implications of the reported £85 million deal.

Aside from the moral qualms many have about such an astronomical figure, most fans have been left querying whether Bale is worth the record-breaking fee. The Welshman is a phenomenal footballer on a par with other Premier League heavyweights; Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Yet these players aren’t nearly attracting the astronomical figures to their names as Bale. Robin van Persie, last season’s top goalscorer, was bought for a measly £22.5 million last year. One of the finest all-round English players of the last decade, Wayne Rooney, was only recently valued at a mere £25 million by Chelsea. Luis Suarez, scorer of 30 goals last season, has attracted massive offers from Arsenal but that famous 40 million and a one pound pales in comparison to the reported Bale fee.

The residing question then is this: what exactly are Madrid up to? Gareth Bale is undoubtedly a superb footballer. Not even the most ardent of Arsenal fans would question that. For club and country, the midfielder scored 31 goals last term. He single-handedly won games for his team in sublime fashion on more than a handful of occasions. These are facts that nobody can deny. They are also facts that fans of Manchester United (Rooney and van Persie) and Liverpool can boast of their stars yet no record transfer fee hangs over the heads of these players. Real Madrid president Florentine Perez obviously sees value in the Welshman and is willing to part with £85 million to prove it.

Real Madrid are no strangers to blockbuster signings. In 2001 it was Zinedine Zidane (a then world record £45.6 million). In 2009, it was Kaka (another world record of around £56m) and then Cristiano Ronaldo (yet another world record fee of £80 million). At a cheaper, but no less significant, level they signed David Beckham from Manchester United in 2003 for £24.5 million.

Real Madrid is unashamedly a brand and each of the players mentioned slotted perfectly into the on-going mission to solidify the Galácticos as the largest global brand in football. Through sponsorships and worldwide touring Madrid have become the most recognised football club on the planet.

Gareth Bale

With Beckham they acquired Europe’s most valuable sporting personality. From the very beginning of his Spanish adventure David Beckham was helping his new club recoup the money they had dished out on him – even his medical was sponsored by a health-care firm. Add this to multi-million pound Adidas deal to match Madrid’s and a merchandising agreement that reportedly had Beckham handing 50% of his personal sponsorship earnings to Madrid then it is safe to say that the Spanish giants have an idea of how to spend money to make money.

‘Brand Madrid’ seek players that are able to enhance not just their on-field success but also that off it. Jose Mourinho’s managerial credentials need no clarification yet he was considered surplus to requirements at Madrid as his controversial antics were just not in keeping with the angelic sheen of the nine-time European Cup winners. When Mourinho was seen to poke then Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye the Spanish press called it ‘deplorable’. Not an image football’s biggest commercial club wished to convey.

Madrid were often linked to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez this summer, a player with statistics that at times outshine Bale’s, yet this interest never gathered any momentum and it can only be assumed that this is down to the tainted image of the Uruguayan. Like Mourinho, Suarez is capable of too much brand-damaging controversy to justify spending such amounts of money regardless of his talent.

Just a quick glance at Real Madrid’s history of signings provides a clearer picture of why they are willing to spend such an enormous amount on a clean-cut, fresh faced, superstar in the making. In Bale, Madrid have a young star in the making that they will be able to mould and shape to fit their own needs. In Madrid, Bale has a platform to expand his own brand. It was not so long that it was revealed Bale was attempting to trademark his heart-shaped goal celebration – he is clearly aware of the benefits of building his own brand beyond the game and the benefits of a Madrid move will not be lost on the 24-year-old.

Even on a brand-building level, Bale at such a price will still be seen as a gamble for Madrid. Unlike, Zidane, Kaka, Ronaldo or Beckham, he is not a pre-packaged global star just waiting to become a shirt-selling machine. He doesn’t yet transcend sport like, say, Beckham did. The more cynical of supporters will assume the long drawn-out pursuit of Bale by Madrid is merely a clever marketing ploy to allow the world time to catch up and get to know the world’s most expensive footballer-elect before the eventual finalities are complete.

Simply by being attached to such lucrative and high-profile transfers in recent history, Real Madrid have ensured their names in both the history books and newspapers all around the world; the Gareth Bale situation is no different. Madrid are being talked about by football fans and non-fans alike the world over, and that is just the way the like it as the brand continues to flourish with the latest star commodity preparing his keepy-up skills for the big Bernabeu reveal.

by Jack Poland

Why would Madrid sell Cristiano Ronaldo to Milan?

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has stated that Cristiano Ronaldo is on the Rossoneri’s summer transfer wishlist, with the Italian club ready to make a world record offer for the Portuguese attacker come June. However, with Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, in with a chance of winning the tournament for the first time since 2002 and off the back of beating bitter rivals Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final, why oh why would Los Blancos part with their star man?

The ex-Sporting Lisbon attacker matured and grew as a player at Manchester United, with Sir Alex Ferguson and his coaching staff at Carrington transforming the Portugal international from a promising, fast winger who frustrated with lots of fancy tricks and flicks, into a second striker with strength, finishing ability and an end product in mind.

When the Red Devils decided to sell CR7, they received £80 million for the player. £80 million. So with the 26 year old in the prime of his career and having returned almost a goal a game for Jose Mourinho’s side (scoring 42 goals in all competitions this season) one would imagine that it would take £100 million at least to buy him.

With Los Galacticos not exactly short of cash however, what do they need £100 million for? And who could they buy with that money that would do anywhere near as good a job as Ronaldo currently does?

One of Madrid’s star men this season has been German international Mesut Ozil, who has delighted the Bernabeu with his craft, guile and vision, and the ex-Werder Bremen player is a key part of the side’s attacking brand of football. Despite the creative midfielder’s abilities and continued place in the Madrid starting XI, and with Ozil being the best contender to step into Ronaldo’s boots if the Portuguese forward did leave, Mourinho’s side would lack a certain cutting edge.

Ronaldo gives them the fear factor; in a team of world class international players it is he that opponents fear, he who no-one wants to mark and his ruthlessness is the point of the Los Blancos spear.

Jose Mourinho has stated that he will leave the club should Florentino Perez sell the Madeira born attacker, and who could blame him. Real Madrid would be a much wealthier club without Ronaldo but are a much better team with him, and if they are to break Barca’s stranglehold on Spanish football they need to keep their best player. Ronaldo, ‘The Special One’ and a team of superstars have a chance of glory, a new coach and no CR7 surely do not; Signor Berlusconi your money is no good here.

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