Love affairs with new players are often fleeting. There’s nought so fickle as a football crowd and players go from hero to zero in the time it takes to miss a penalty in a key game. From the best thing since sliced bread to stale and mouldy baguettes. “We love you….we hate you”. It happens right across football, but when there’s a huge price tag on your shoulders, expectation can kill a player – just look what it’s done to Fernando Torres at Chelsea. He’s been running around with 50 million anvils on his back since he joined the London club from Liverpool.
Gareth Bale was overpriced in an inflated market. Is he worth two Ozils? Actually, some would say he’s not worth one, although it cannot be denied that in 2012-13, Bale was the hot spur in Tottenham. He has talent, but his reputation has largely been founded on one outstanding season in which everything went right for him. He hasn’t built an international portfolio, but then he plays for Wales, so he will find that impossible, and Tottenham, at present, are Europa League contenders and Champions League wannabees. They would have been certifiable if they had turned down such an enormous sum of money for the 24 year-old midfielder.
But being the hottest thing in Britain doesn’t always translate to international success. In Spain, it really is hit or miss. Although it has been the long-time favourite holiday destination, British players, traditionally, haven’t adapted well to the Spanish way of life, or the style of Spanish football clubs.
And despite rolling in clover and being fed rare truffles by over-attendant underlings, it’s tough being a Real Madrid player, because the fans, the press and the men behind the scenes demand so much. Steve McManaman, perhaps a little surprisingly, was a huge success there, but others have enjoyed mixed fortunes. Was David Beckham and Real a marriage made in heaven? He managed mediocrity well, that’s for sure, eventually leaving with his head held high and with the crowd calling for more. The Beckham legend will tell you his time in the Spanish capital was a triumph, but at times, life was as uncomfortable as tweed underpants for Beckham among the galacticos.
Basically, when the football was all that mattered – rather than the preening, the PR and constant image restyling – Beckham didn’t shape up that well to some of the giants of the world game. Likewise, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate, the latter very unlucky, were both labeled flops by the Bernabeu faithful. And go back a little further, the brilliant Laurie Cunningham started well but fell from grace, eventually dying in tragic circumstances.
Real Madrid have shown just what a political morass they are in the way they handled the departure of Mesut Ozil, and this may have already alerted Bale to just how easy it will be to tumble off the pedestal his debut goal will have placed him. Zinedine Zidane, for example, the assistant coachr at Real, said Ozil didn’t fancy a fight for his place in the team. If Real wanted him so much, then why did they let it be known early in the summer that the German midfielder was available?
What’s more, Real’s infamous President, Florentino Perez, was said to have called Ozil “unprofessional” and “obsessed with women” as he departed the Bernabeu. Since then, Perez has rightly denied such comments and publically wished Ozil every success at Arsenal. Damage limitation measures on Real’s part, perhaps, but the whole incident smacks of “how dare he leave us on his terms”. But Real had to recoup some cash after their outlay on Bale, so wasn’t Ozil’s move convenient for the club in many ways?
If he has a few bad games, or he doesn’t truck with the now fashionably bespectacled Ronaldo (at present their career records are both a goal a game), Bale will soon fall foul of the club or the media, or both. Real were willing to pay £84m for the Welshman, but they will be expecting a stellar return on investment. Be warned Senor Bale, the honeymoon period doesn’t last long at clubs like Real Madrid.