Why United Shouldn’t Bale out GarethAdded by Philip Meese on 31 May 2018 21:20
A look at why Manchester United should avoid a potential transfer for long term target Gareth Bale this summer.
By Philip Meese, Chief Editor
The Champions League Final in Kiev brought down the curtain on the 2017-18 season, a largely forgettable campaign for Manchester United fans, despite their best Premier League campaign since Sir Alex Ferguson left. The match itself saw reported United target Gareth Bale provide the main talking points, with not only his match winning double, but his post-match comments.
The Welsh international refused to commit his future to Real Madrid, sparking rumours of a potential transfer. United have cast flirtatious glances towards Bale for over a decade, and he has turned down a move to Old Trafford on more than one occasion. There is no question that he is a player that CEO Ed Woodward covets highly, and from a marketing point of view he would see it as money well spent. The issue remains, however, as to whether his signing would be a good option for the club in the short and long term.
History with United
The interest in Bale from M16 goes back over a decade, when he was a teenager at Southampton, having come through their academy. Despite Ferguson registering his interest, Bale moved to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2007 for an initial £5 million, plus add-ons. A paltry fee considering his worth today. Despite an indifferent start, including a bizarre period where Tottenham didn’t win while Bale was playing, he eventually developed into one of the best players in the Premier League.
Spurs knew they were never going to keep hold of Bale for his entire career, and an eventual move seemed inevitable. In the summer of 2013, the world and his wife knew that Bale had his heart set on a move to the Bernabéu; everyone except Ed Woodward it seems. Following the departures of Ferguson and David Gill, United reportedly offered than the £86 million world record fee that Real paid for his services. Bale wasn’t interested and once again rejected United’s advances in favour of La Liga.
Since moving to Spain, Bale has won every club honour available to him, and broken several records such as being the highest ever British goalscorer in Spain; no mean achievement considering both Mark Hughes and Gary Lineker both played there during their careers. Other than his post-match interview in Kiev, he has never given any indication that he wants to leave the Bernabéu. He wouldn’t be the first Real Madrid player to court interest from United in order to get themselves an improved contract.
Di María Mark 2?
In 2014, new United manager Louis van Gaal bought Argentina international Ángel Di María from Real Madrid form a then British record £59.7 million transfer. Like Bale, he had just been named Man of the Match in a Champions League Final victory, was also an attacking, pacey forward whose place in the Madrid squad was far from assured following the arrival of James Rodríguez.
Di María had a good start, with 3 goals in his first five games, but it soon became clear that he had never particularly wanted to move to Manchester. Paris Saint-Germain had wanted to sign him that summer, but doing so would have seen them breach Financial Fair Play regulations. Towards the end of the 2014-15 season, Di María started making noises that he was unhappy at the club, blaming a burglary, and getting himself ridiculously sent off against Arsenal. The look on van Gaal’s face as he limped off “injured” in the final game of the season against Hull City said it all.
Bale has never shown any more enthusiasm to come to United than Di María did. And since when do Madrid ever sell players they really want to keep?
Would he Improve the Squad?
There can be no doubt that Bale would add an extra dimension to United’s attack. The right wing is an area that United have struggled with ever since Antonio Valencia moved to full back. Over the last four years, several players such as Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard have been tried in that position. None of them have excelled and apart from Mata’s double at Anfield in 2015, it’s hard to remember a memorable performance in that position over that period. Nobody has made it their own.
In Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sánchez and Anthony Martial (assuming he is still at the club next season), United have a plethora of attacking options for the left flank. Bales performance on Saturday in Kiev showed an attacking element that José Mourinho doesn’t currently have; a left-footed player who can play on the right, can cut inside at pace and cause opponents considerable damage. Bale can play on either flank, as well as through the middle, and is probably faster than anyone in the current United squad. A fit Gareth Bale would be an asset to any squad in world football. If he stayed fit, and played as the world knows he can, he could help make United a real force again, both domestically and in Europe.
From a marketing aspect, signing the Welshman would definitely have a positive impact. His name on the back of a red shirt would generate millions of pounds in shirt sales, and other merchandise. It probably wouldn’t do their share price on the New York Stock Exchange any harm either.
One of the definite cons of any potential deal is what it would actually cost to bring Bale to Old Trafford, a player who will be 29 by the start of next season. Despite being a favourite of Madrid president Florentino Pérez, one of the reasons he is said to be contemplating a move is that he found his playing time rather limited this season. Far from an automatic choice, the fact that he became the first substitute to score twice in a Champions League Final highlights this. This may change following manager Zinedine Zidane’s shock resignation. He may be central to the plans of whoever replaces him.
Some sources say that Real Madrid would want a transfer fee of somewhere around twice the £86 million they paid for him, maybe even a world record transfer fee. That’s before his wages, image rights and agents fees are taken into account. His salary alone would probably make him the top earner at the club, and for that money they are hardly likely to sign him on a short term deal. At his age there would be little resell value if the move didn’t work out.
Another aspect to be taken into account is the large amount of time he has spent in the physio’s room since moving to Madrid. According to his profile on Transfermarkt.com, Bale has had suffered twelve fairly serious injuries since arriving in the Spanish capital, in addition to the meniscal laceration he was already carrying when he signed. This means that since joining Real Madrid, Bale has spent approximately 320 days, totalling around 60 games, where he has been unavailable for selection. That’s pretty much an entire season out of the five he has been there.
It’s not as though he had one or two serious injuries that kept him out for long periods of time. Only one of them kept him out of action for more than two months. These injuries are regular occurrences and whatever fee Madrid would want for him is likely to be a lot of money for someone who cannot be relied upon to stay fit. Especially when the man who signs the cheque already knows about that particular risk. Who knows? The next injury could finish him.
Commitment to the Cause
One major factor, especially where the fans are concerned, is the thought of the club potentially breaking the world transfer record for someone who has never shown any real interest in moving to Manchester. He has had plenty of opportunities in the past. Another issue to consider is that Bale’s post-match comments about his future were made with the fact that he has not been an automatic choice this season. How he fits in under the next manager’s regime is anybody’s guess at this point.
United may not be the dominant force in English football at the moment, but they are still the biggest club in the country. Big enough that anybody who moves to Old Trafford should do so because they genuinely want to play there, not just because their club doesn’t want them anymore. Why pay all that money for someone who isn’t 100% committed?
Does Mourinho even want him?
The most burning issue from the manager’s point of view, however, is how much of his transfer budget would a move for Gareth Bale use up? Rumours in the Sun suggest that he has told Woodward that he doesn’t want any of his budget that he has earmarked for other players being used in any deal. How true this is cannot be ascertained, but it’s not hard to see where he is coming from.
Mourinho has stated in the past that he was not planning on making any attacking signings for the summer, following Sánchez’s arrival earlier this year. This makes sense as the defence and midfield clearly need some surgery. Once Mourinho has got a solid back line, more specifically, one that he trusts, he may relieve some of his attacking players of the tracking back that has been expected of them. United fans would love to see them throw off the shackles, letting them off the leash more than the current way of playing allows.
United are reportedly in advanced talks with Brazilian midfielder Fred, as well as Porto right-back Diogo Dalot. These are two of the areas that need addressing, especially when you consider that Valencia is well into his thirties, Michael Carrick has retired and Marouane Fellaini will most likely be plying his trade elsewhere next season. The right wing does need freshening up, but spending something like £200 million on an injury prone 29 year old, however brilliant he may be, does not make any sense.
That money could be used to strengthen other areas of the team, which is probably what Mourinho has earmarked it for. If you can do this and get Bale with whatever the manager’s transfer kitty amounts to, then fair enough. Doesn’t seem very likely though, unless this summer’s budget is unlimited.
While it would be great to see a world class player like Gareth Bale in the red of United, especially if he can remain injury free, there are so many reasons not to buy him. The cons definitely outweigh the pros, and the club must look at the bigger picture.
He has never shown any interest in joining United before, so why should they go for him now when it is possible that all he wants is an escape route, or a new contract and promises about his role in the team, from his present employers? Now that Zidane has departed, he may not need any of them. It also has to be said that Real Madrid don’t sell players unless they are done with them. They rarely sell players that are central to their plans. After the Di María fiasco, do United really want another Bernabéu reject?
In spite of the balance he would bring to the attack, so would a lot of players who are less injury prone, and wouldn’t use up the bulk of the clubs transfer budget. Like Willian, who United are rumoured to be interested in. Either way, it will take more than one player to close the gap on Manchester City.
The worrying thing is that all of these concerns have probably already been taken into account by Ed Woodward. Despite this, the rumours linking Bale to Old Trafford persist, giving the impression that if he did become available, the United CEO would probably be first in the queue to get his dream signing.
However much of a risk it may be.