Last week, the transfer saga that rumbled on all summer finally came to an end. Gareth Bale at last made his world-record €100m transfer to Real Madrid. As a Tottenham Hotspur fan, I had come to terms with the fact that it was probably only a matter of time before Bale would depart, but still, I was deflated to see him leave the club.
A player talking about coming to play for his “boyhood club” is nothing new. Many have said as much after joining a new team. It happens every transfer window it seems that it has become a football cliché.
Maybe it was the way Bale captured the sentiment in one phrase quoted by Sid Lowe. “I’d have come here for a penny.” Exactly! These sounded like heart-felt words, not hollow. The feeling that it wasn’t about the money, though that goes with being the player involved in a world-record transfer, but that it was about the kid who once upon a time used to wear his Real jersey kicking the ball around the local park pitch in Cardiff. It wasn’t about a lucrative wage package, but it was about the dream of a kid who once fell asleep to a highlight reel of himself scoring goals under the bright lights of the Bernabeu. It’s that charming, child-like, innocent sound bite - “I’d have come here for a penny” – that makes Bale so believable and makes me want to say, “Hala, the boy Bale! Congratulations on joining Real Madrid!”
The dreams of youth are conceived once upon a time and stored in the imagination. Sometimes we dare to pursue them only to realize they will always remain out of reach. Perhaps it's because we lacked the opportunity, or the skills or guidance from the right mentor to pull them off. Whenever we articulate a dream and dare to pursue it, we quickly find a multitude of factors standing between ourselves and the dream becoming a reality.
(For Bale there were several obstacles that threatened to derail his progress, not to mention his childhood dream of a playing in Real’s meringue kit. There was the specter hanging around him of his 24 game winless streak in the Premier League that spanned two seasons and three different managers. Then there were injuries and struggling to get a decent run of matches to try and force his way into the team. There were rumors of being Bale going out on loan to Nottingham Forest under Redknapp. Finally, he got his break when Benoit Assou-Ekotto was out injured and Bale got a run in the side at left back before making his name as a winger. The rest is, as they say… history.)
If we do manage to achieve what we once only imagined possible, it’s rarely exactly how we imagined it would be. Just two days after making his appearance before the Madrid faithful, assistant coach Paul Clement said Bale is not guaranteed a starting spot. Wonder if that was included in the talks between club, agent and player? It would seem unlikely.
The dream come true is always a mixed bag. It contains pieces of the original dream intermingled with elements we can never count on, factors we can never predict, and outcomes that are out of our control. So, whether it all “works out” for Bale at Madrid and he is a “success” – however that is defined and who defines it is another matter – or whether he ends up leaving before his contract ends, I for one, am happy for the lad.
It’s no small thing to dare to dream as a kid, to articulate it to others, to battle against the odds and finally see it come to pass. His rise from Southampton to Spurs to Real Madrid is nothing short of astonishing.
As for the rest of Bale’s career? It is, as they say… to be continued, starting tomorrow against Villareal. I am looking forward to it.
Hala, the Boy Bale!