Where next for Gareth Bale?

November 30, 2012 in Premier League, Transfers by Kai Kapo

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Gareth Bale: the best Welsh player since Ryan Giggs. The similarities between the Manchester United legend and the new, younger ‘Welsh Wizard’ are there for everybody to see. Both were hailed as the future of Welsh football. In his peak, Giggs was a blistering left winger that induced a medical condition amongst defenders known as ‘twisted blood’, and at the moment, you would find it difficult to look past Bale when considering who you would call the best left winger in the Premier League. Gareth Bale has even adopted Ryan’s famous number 11 jersey for both club and country. The one thing that will remain starkly different about the two is that Ryan Giggs’ future had never been in doubt since his debut back in 1992 – he was going to be at Manchester United for the rest of his career. Gareth Bale, however, will not be spending another 10 or 15 years at Tottenham Hotspur, no matter what AVB may say to the media - sorry Spurs fans, that is a fact, and it’s not ‘if’, but rather ‘when’ he leaves. Tottenham fans will call it ‘lack of loyalty’, but Gareth Bale will call it ‘ambition’.

So where could he end up? Gareth Bale seems to be in the peculiar category of players that not many teams actually need but will still consider buying. Sound confusing? For example, Manchester City play a very continental, sometimes narrow formation based around their playmaker, David Silva, and generally play without wingers. And yet, if Bale, a winger, was put on sale, you can bet your bottom dollar that City would be making a bid.

The same applies for Barcelona. They don’t need him but will try to buy him anyway. The ‘six-midfielders’ formation that they employ doesn’t really suit a direct and powerful winger and it’s difficult to determine whether Bale would be able to adjust to playing second fiddle to Messi. Basically, at Barcelona, Messi does whatever he wants, leaving Xavi and Iniesta to fill the holes he leaves. Although Bale is, without doubt, one of the most promising players of his generation, Xavi or Iniesta he is not. You would feel that if he was to go to Barcelona, then it would see him revert to his old left-back position to provide competition for the brilliant Jordi Alba. However, having caught the eye of so many top clubs as a winger, it’s hard to imagine Bale will want to drop back into the left full-back role.

So who else doesn’t need him? Real Madrid - obviously. The ambiguity between what Madrid ‘want’ and what they ‘need’ is so great that it would be a shock if they didn’t eventually make a bid for the Welshman. Tactically, Madrid tend to employ two outstanding inside forwards in their attack play. Angel Di Maria  is lethal on his day and on the other side, you have probably the most effective wide player that has ever played the game in Cristiano Ronaldo. Should one of these players become injured, Gareth Bale would be the ideal replacement, but will Gareth be happy with being second choice? As Kaka and Mesut Ozil have found recently, the nature of playing for Madrid means at some point, you will have to warm the bench. However, what’s to stop him forcing his way into the first team? If he plays well and fulfils his potential, you could be looking at Ronaldo and Bale on either side. That is scary.

There must be some clubs that actually need him? Yes, there are, but unfortunately for Bale, these are clubs that don’t really appeal to him. Inter and AC Milan have both expressed an interest, but Inter’s collapse in recent years and Milan’s reportedly poor finances mean that Italy doesn’t really sound like a viable option. Anzhi in Russia are keen to sign pretty much anyone who’s half decent at kicking a ball. They could make Bale the highest paid footballer in the world if they wished, but that won’t be enough to tempt Bale to play for a club whose players must board a flight to play home matches. Paris Saint-Germain, maybe? They seem to be on the rise and have signed a host of top footballers of which Bale could be a welcomed addition. If it was a choice between Madrid and Paris, most footballers would go for Madrid. Finally, Tottenham will not sell him to Chelsea – let’s move on.

So, Manchester United. Why isn’t he there already? Mainly because Antonio Valencia has made the right wing his own position leaving Nani, Young and Welbeck fighting for that spot on the left. Does Fergie really want the headache of choosing between four players for one position? He doesn’t seem to mind the striker situation he has at the moment, but he’s also famous for keeping faith in his players for as long as possible, so you feel players like Nani will continue to get a chance. But faith is not limitless. The end of this season will mark Nani’s sixth in English football and you fear there won’t be a seventh unless the Portuguese international starts to produce the sort of form he was in a few years ago. If Nani leaves, then Bale going to United is a possibility that Spurs fans will be dreading.

Having said that he would like to play abroad at some point in his career; you would have to say that Real Madrid would be stand-out favourites for his signature when he decides to leave North London, and although not many footballers would turn down a chance to pull on a Barcelona shirt, Manchester United would be second favourites to sign the player that would be the most natural successor of Ryan Giggs’ jersey.