Transfer Focus: Gareth Bale
Our Transfer Focus feature looks at Gareth Bale as he continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid.
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Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid as speculation mounts that the Spanish giants could swoop for the Welsh wizard in the summer.
Sky Bet make Real Madrid 6/4 favourites to land Bale, ahead of Manchester United at 3/1, with Tottenham looking unlikely to hold on to their prized asset in the long-term as comparisons to current icons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to be made.
With rumours over Bale's future growing by the day, it was unsurprising to see a report in The Sun that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has slapped a £100m price tag on the superstar, and given that Levy denied Luka Modric a move to Chelsea in 2011, his stubbornness may yet see Bale remain at White Hart Lane next season.
While Bale's future remains decisively uncertain, our Transfer Focus feature examines the evidence to seek some clues as to where he will be calling home next season.
Who Wants Him?
Real Madrid are the favourites to sign Bale amid several reports linking the Spanish giants with the forward. Their hold on the La Liga crown seems all but relinquished to Barcelona this season, bar a spectacular collapse from the Catalan club, and president Florentino Perez will be eyeing summer reinforcements to bolster next season's title charge. There have been comparatively few high-profile signings at the Bernabeu in recent seasons, at least compared to the era of the galacticos, and recruiting Bale would firmly state Madrid's intentions to reclaim dominance in Spain. With Cristiano Ronaldo also linked with an exit from Madrid, Bale would be a ready-made replacement and put Europe's elite firmly on notice.
Following a hugely successful Premier League campaign which saw United lift their 20th league title, the Red Devils seem to have few areas in their squad which need improvement. Their forward line is arguably the best in the country, such is their strength in depth with the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck on the books. Rooney, however, has seen links to Paris St Germain surface on a regular basis in recent weeks, and his exit would leave a gaping hole in United's side. With Bale playing largely in Rooney's position in the past few months, the Welshman would not find it hard to slot in alongside Van Persie. If United are to spend big this summer, could a bid for Bale be their top priority?
Chelsea are no strangers to spending big, and inevitably it will take huge money to prize Bale from London rivals Tottenham's hands. With Frank Lampard's future still uncertain, the need for a goalscoring midfielder may be an issue for the Blues next season and few players offer more threat outside the penalty area than Bale. A move across the capital would anger Tottenham fans no end, and given that Levy would be highly reluctant to sell his star asset, the prospect of selling him to their great rivals would not be pondered for too long. However, you can be sure that Chelsea would have no qualms entering a bidding war should one transpires this summer.
Also available with Sky Bet: Bayern Munich (12/1), Manchester City (12/1), Barcelona (18/1), AC Milan (25/1), Inter Milan (25/1).
Sky Bet's Paul Lowery says: "The main media speculation so far has linked Bale with a move to the Spanish capital, and the majority of early money staked on the market was placed on Real Madrid. However in the last week since the Champions League first legs, punters have noted that the power may be shifting in Europe and German giants Bayern Munich have already shown signs that they will move heavily in the summer. Bale would add another dimension to the Ribery & Robben combination, but the early move for Mario Götze suggests Bayern may not be as serious as punters believe about capturing the Welsh superstar. The obvious move in the Premier League would be to Manchester, where both the red and blue halves of the City would surely relish the chance to add Bale to their artillery, and the more likely candidate may be Utd, fresh from capturing their 20th title."
This season 47 games, 28 goals - includes a hat-trick in Tottenham's 4-0 win over Aston Villa and a contender for goal of the season in the 3-2 victory against West Ham.
Last season 47 games, 15 goals - includes three doubles for Tottenham (in the 3-1 victory at home to QPR, the 2-0 win at Norwich and the 3-1 win over Wigan).
International record 41 games, 11 goals - having rejected the opportunity to play for England, who he was eligible for through his grandmother, Bale became the youngest player ever to score for the Wales in the Euro 2008 qualification match against Slovakia. He is now a firm fixture on Chris Coleman's team sheet and scored a wonderful double as Wales beat Scotland 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier back in October.
On 17 April 2006, at the age of 16 years and 275 days, Bale became the second youngest player ever to play for Southampton
Bale played a record 24 Premier League matches for Spurs without being on the winning side. His run came to an end on September 26, 2009 when he appeared as a substitute in Tottenham's 5-0 thrashing of Burnley.
Bale has been shown five yellow cards for diving since the start of the 2011-12 season and no other player has more than two cautions for the same offence in that time
Bale does not drink alcohol, claiming in a Mail Online interview in 2010: "I have no problem with players who do have a drink. I just don't like the taste. That's simply how it is."
What Bale Says
February 2013: "As I said I am enjoying my football and the team is playing well which makes things easier for me."
March 2013: "It's flattering (on being compared with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo), but I don't really look too much into it. I don't get the newspapers or read too many reports, so I don't really know how much hype there is. Obviously my friends tell me things, but I just treat every day as normal and focus on my job."
June 2012: "The club is progressing and I want to be a part of that, so it was great to get the deal done," (After signing a new four-year deal).
What Others Say
April 2013, former Real Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane: "He's unique. He makes things look easy, his pace is frightening, his acceleration is unbelievable because of his ability to go through the gears in very little space."
March 2013, Fulham manager Martin Jol: "Hopefully for the league and for Spurs he will stay because I think it's a very good club for him. He's getting stronger and stronger and playing in the hole he is probably even better."
February 2013, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas: "Most teams have to hang on to their best players, Barcelona losing Messi would be a disaster, Real Madrid losing Ronaldo would be a disaster so this is exactly the same."
Daily Mirror, April 24 Real Madrid have set themselves a limit of £45m to land Gareth Bale.
The Sun, April 21 Chairman Daniel Levy has slapped a £100million price tag on Gareth Bale - as Manchester City join the queue for the Spurs superstar
The People, March 3 Gareth Bale is prepared to delay his dream move to Real Madrid for one more year - for the sake of his family.
Daily Mail, March 7 Tottenham are planning a 'double your money' £8m-a-year deal in a bid to keep Gareth Bale, 23, at the club.
Daily Mail, March 1 Real Madrid will step up attempts to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham if Cristiano Ronaldo fails to sign a new contract at the Bernabeu this summer.
PFA, April 28 (@PFA) - PFA #POTY 1 Gareth Bale #THFC; 2 Luis Suarez #LFC; 3 Robin van Persie #MUFC #PFAawards
Henry Winter, April 28 (@henrywinter) - At PFA dinner. Gareth Bale gets huge hug from AVB as he goes up to accept Young POTY. Bale notes: 'I used to play on the wing' #thfc
OptaJoe, April 27 (@OptaJoe) - 13 - Gareth Bale has now scored 13 Premier League away goals this season, more than any other player. Roving.