Football Comment: Bale in world’s elite but overpriced by £50m

Trevor Steven
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A LONG summer of transfer speculation has revolved in no small part around north London and, with 10 days to go, Tottenham look to have managed it better than Arsenal, despite the imminent loss of their best player.

Spurs have been understandably reluctant to part with Gareth Bale, but the money on offer from Real Madrid – a world record deal worth around £94m – might never come along again.

Make no mistake, the versatile Welshman, who proved a matchwinner on so many occasions last season, is in the world’s top five players, but even so Real are probably overpaying by about £50m.

Tottenham are often hailed as tough negotiators, although I’m not sure they have had to do too much on this occasion to elicit the eye-watering fee.

Spurs never wanted to sell, but were faced with an adamant would-be buyer who could also employ the great Zinedine Zidane to publicly encourage Bale to swap White Hart Lane for the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real have seemed intent on making a huge splash and arming new manager Carlo Ancelotti with another star signing, while Bale’s refusal to openly demand a move has kept the price high.

Where Tottenham have been smart is in their use of the imminent windfall on high-quality established players such as Brazil midfielder Paulinho and Spain centre-forward Roberto Soldado.

Willian, another Brazilian, would be another top signing, although they look to face competition for his signature from Chelsea, and I think they still need another centre-back.

Rather than being dependent on one player, who could get injured at any time, or be singled out for rough treatment from opponents, Spurs have wisely spread their talent around the squad.

If all goes well in the final days of the window they will have a stronger squad than last season and be well placed to finally overtake Arsenal, whose summer has been a different story altogether.

There is no doubt in my mind that Arsene Wenger wants to spend the £100m or so at his disposal, and now that their Champions League status has been all-but secured he can safely make those key decisions.

Wenger insists that only now will the real business be done, and it is true that many players are waiting to see who goes where before deciding their future, though a bid for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez is dead.

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is the latest alternative in Wenger’s sights and, while not as consistent and therefore valuable as Suarez, is a better all-round footballer and could thrive in England.

The problem is Benzema is Real’s only senior striker, so the Gunners may be frustrated again unless the Spaniards follow up interest in Suarez with an offer and need to cash in on the Frenchman.

Trevor Steven is a former England international who now works as a scout and media commentator.