Daniel Levy v Florentino Perez: The big hitters from Tottenham and Real Madrid battling over Gareth Bale
The Wales international is growing increasingly keen on a move to the Bernabeu
Developments over the last 48 hours have seen Gareth Bale grow increasingly keen on a move to Real Madrid with the player and his camp now unequivocal that he wishes to leave Spurs.
But a mere desire to play for the Spanish giants and a big money offer in no way guarantees the Tottenham forward is destined for the Bernabeu this summer.
There are two stubborn men, who are used to getting their own way, that must first do battle writes Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard.
On one side is Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who has a track record of beating clubs into submission when it comes to signing their best players. Real may not have made an official bid for Bale just yet but they will certainly have to top the world-record fee of £80million they paid for Cristiano Ronaldo — or come up with a player-plus-cash package — in order to sign him.
However, on this occasion Perez may have met his match in Daniel Levy, with the Tottenham chairman having established a reputation as one of the toughest negotiators around.
If this was a boxing duel, the tale of the tape would set this battle up to be an exciting affair with no guarantees over who would land the knock-out blow. Whether anyone agrees with Madrid’s tactics, no one can dispute their effectiveness.
Through Spanish newspaper Marca, Real have wooed Bale and declared their desire to sign him in a manner that we have seen many times in the past. Perez knows that by feeding his line to Marca, the story will get picked up across the world, thus fuelling the speculation around the club's chosen target.
One only has to look over Perez’s track record as president during two spells in charge (2000-06 and 2009-present) to see a list of signings who are the envy of their rivals.
Perez introduced the era of the Galacticos at the Bernabeu, the notion being to make at least one major acquisition each year to add to the great talent already assembled. A glance down the list of transfers reads like a who’s who of the game. It started with the incredible £37m acquisition of Luis Figo from fierce rivals Barcelona in 2000 and was followed by Zinedine Zidane a year later for £46m, Brazil international Ronaldo (£28.5m in 2002) and David Beckham (£24.5m 2003).
And perhaps the most stunning example of all was in 2009, when Kaka and Ronaldo arrived for just under £140m. On most occasions, Perez was met with fierce resistance, just as Spurs are providing now, only for the player in question to end up wearing the white shirt of Madrid. Even when a club have held off their advances in one summer, which Real experienced when trying to sign Kaka and Ronaldo in 2006 and 2008 respectively, the Spanish giants returned to sign the players.
That would normally make a team’s supporters fear the worst but Tottenham fans know Levy is not a man to surrender lightly. Some may argue Levy did allow Luka Modric to join the Spanish giants last year but the transfer was on his terms and he made sure the Croatia international was not sold to a Premier League rival.
That was the major threat in the summer of 2011 as Chelsea came calling three times at his door with huge offers — the biggest being £40m — only for it to be firmly slammed in their face.
Levy had an opportunity to more than double his profit on a midfielder they had signed from Dinamo Zagreb for £16.8m, yet he was not interested in financial gain.
It was about making a statement over Spurs’ ambition to become part of the elite — and the stand over Bale is similar in that regard.
Modric did his best to force through a transfer to Chelsea, from handing in a transfer request to refusing to play because “his head wasn’t right”.
Levy remained steadfast and it is a course of action Bale, who was Modric’s team-mate, should certainly be wary of repeating now.
Even when Spurs have lost their best players in the past, such as Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick, the Spurs supremo fought until the end and Manchester United ended up paying nearly £50m for the pair.
People will understandably question how Spurs could possible reject a record bid for a 24-year-old who has no winners’ medal to his name and has played in the Champions League just once.
The club’s former striker Gary Lineker summed it up best yesterday by saying: “Losing your best player is never good business — sends out all the wrong signals.”
Spurs can certainly challenge for a top-four place this season with Bale, without him they don’t stand a chance. Helping them reach the Champions League would certainly be a better parting gift for it would then be easier to attract a worthy replacement.
Madrid’s offer may give Spurs money to play with in the transfer market, yet few top-class players will want to join a club who have just sold their prize asset and are in the Europa League.
There would also be the added complication of any potential selling club charging exorbitant prices knowing how much Levy has to spend with just a month of the transfer window remaining.
None of this will concern Perez, however, and he remains confident that Bale will end up playing in the Bernabeu. The only question remaining now it seems is will it be this summer or one in the future.
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