Tottenham Hotspur the winners in Gareth Bale’s colossal transfer deal, as football’s first €100m player will struggle to live up to his price tag.
Gareth Bale is simply not worth €100m – and now I have your attention, let me explain why.
Unless you have been living on Mars for the past few months, you have been witness to the most protracted contract negotiation of not just in football, but arguably modern sport.
The Welsh star who has become about as popular as free money in the past year, is now richer than some small countries after completing the most lucrative transfer ever after joining Real Madrid for the next six seasons.
But can one man, apparently, be worth so much to a football side and should any athlete in any sport should be paid this much?
Modern football and a player’s worth is much more about what they bring to the club and their results, with top players now becoming brands in their own right.
What a player’s name means off the field in the minds of marketing companies and consumers when they see their face flash across the television needs to be just as important as their passing stats from the weekend.
And while Bale has all of the possible styling of a model who has stepped out of a GQ photo-shoot, all brill cream and ‘blue steel’, he is yet to go close to any of his contemporaries.
Of course David Beckham was the first modern incarnation of a name, face and almost any other body part that transcended the game.
Bale’s new teammate Cristiano Ronaldo has picked up the torch left by Beckham and carried it well, but at 24 years of age, does the newest Galactico have what it takes to be a marketing star off the pitch?
The Welshman has joined the right team for merchandise opportunities, with Real averaging 1.4 million shirt sales every year for the past five seasons.
And the man himself does have an idea about marketing himself given he has now patented his ‘Eleven of Hearts’ goal celebration which could earn him around 10 million pounds a year.
But beyond that the shy Bale is a long way behind CR7 and Becks.
When Beckham arrived at Real in 2003 for 25m pounds he sold enough jerseys in the first six months to cover the club’s investment and their commercial revenue increased by 55m pounds during the four years he was there.
Ronaldo had more to do more to bring in enough exposure to warrant his transfer fee of 80m pounds, but best estimates said that was covered in a year.
Both players too had won a lot more trophies than Gareth Bale, who only has a runners up medal in the 2009 League Cup final to show for his performances, and just eleven appearances in the top tier of European competition, the UEFA Champions League.
Should Ronaldo sign a renewed contract with Real Madrid, the Portuguese ace will reclaim a portion of his personal image rights, with the club’s share cut back to 20 per cent.
However, they may look to offset this when Bale is officially put on the books.
The club’s commercial revenue in 2011-12 topped 127m pounds. Chuck on a world record transfer on top of that and that figure should increase dramatically.
Real has taken a punt on one man who could cost them around a fifth of a billion Euros when bonuses, wages and other related fees are taken into account for his six-year deal as they continue to fly in the face of Spain’s economic woes.
However, because Bale does not have the off-field branding yet to compare him to Ronaldo, Beckham, Messi or even Kaka, much of his transfer fee has been earned because of his performances on the field… right?
Bale was largely an unknown on the international scene until his stunning performances against Inter Milan in their Champions League tie in 2010-11.
Inter’s right back Maicon probably still needs counseling sessions for what Bale did to him in those two games.
But in the last two years has turned himself into one of the most dangerous attacking weapons in the game, with 26 goals from coming for Spurs across all competitions.
But how does Bale’s laid-back and some might say naive attitude and mentality to the game going to change when he’s earning the gross domestic product of a small country?
And how will it change when he is expected to fill the soon to be vacant role left by Mesut Ozil, who had the most assists in Europe’s biggest leagues since 2010 – along with a certain Lionel Messi.
Bale would not be the first player to crumble under such pressure, and as we have seen with other glamour teams, paying the most and putting together a ‘fantasy’ style team does not always work – just look at the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA last season.
But with Real, at least in the short term they have ‘outgreened’ the grass in Barcelona’s front-yard with Bale joining the likes of Asier Illarramendi and Isco also joining the club in the off-season.
President Florentino Perez arguably went all out to get Bale because of the prestige attached to Barca’s acquisition of Neymar.
And it can be quite reasonably suggested that many of the club’s other signings will have a biggest impact on Real’s potential this season than Bale, Jose Angel Sanchez summed up the club’s attitude when he said: “Real Madrid are like a Hollywood Studio. We make a movie every day, and the movie is worth more if Tom Cruise is in the lead”.
It remains to be seen if their newest “Cruise” can win an Oscar this season or if he gets stuck with a Razzie.