Look, this is not intended as an exercise in pissing on anyone’s chips. Its nice to dream, especially during times like this, but its times like this that makes this all the less likely. Unfortunately.
Football clubs in general, but especially at Football League level, are on their knees. After 18 months without a reliably steady stream of fans coming through the gate, they’ve reached a tipping point. They’re selling season tickets for next season more in hope than expectation. Chances are that attendances will remain limited and if Covid rates continue to spike, further reductions are inevitable.
So, if Cardiff were to sign Bale tomorrow, would anyone be allowed to watch him in person? There are no guarantees. We’ve just had Harry Wilson pass through the club without any of us clapping eyes on him, but it would be a tragedy if that fate befell the guy that’s keeping him out of the Wales side.
It is also for this reason why Cardiff are looking down for their transfers this year, rather than up. I have no problem with them taking the better players from Luton and Crewe, I actually think it’s smart and the right way to go at present. but it admittedly doesn’t set the pulse racing. Bale would, and that’s why it has traction. Its something to talk about and something to write about. Evidently!
Maybe the odds on it happening are tumbling because we’re all talking about it, or maybe there is more substance to it than meets the eye?
Bale is not the kind of person to shout his plans from the rooftops. He has an agent that is more than happy to do that for him. He was born and bred in Cardiff, has a base and family here and a bar in the city centre. Who knows what his plans are beyond football, or if he has any real affinity with Cardiff City. His uncle may have played for them, but he doesn’t necessarily support them.
Those that are talking up the chances of all this happening often say that if Bale wants it to happen, it will happen. Well, football doesn’t necessarily work that way, especially at Bale’s level.
Bale is not just a player, he’s an industry. He earns a lot of money, and not just for him. His salary is reportedly £600,000-a-week, so there are 30,000,000 reasons why it won’t happen right off the bat, while he has one very lucrative year left. There will likely be bonuses and incentives on top of that. He also has very lucrative associations with Adidas, EA Sports, Lucozade and BT Sport, among others.
If Bale wants to slum it in the Championship, all of the above will be on the phone. Pulling off transfers of this stature are like turning an ocean liner. They do not happen overnight and take months of planning and negotiations.
Yes, Real Madrid want shot of him and there no obvious destinations for him, but the only move Bale has been linked with in the recent past was to China, where he was going to be earning even more money. In the end, Real pulled the plug on his proposed £1m-a-week deal because they were unwilling to release him without a transfer fee.
Mehmet Dalman was asked about signing Bale on a recent episode of Andy Campbell’s podcast and he said that if Bale was happy with £5,000-a-week, there is a deal to be done. He was being flippant, but also trying to manage expectations. Gone are the days when Peter Ridsdale and Dave Jones would huddle together and try to find a way to make it all work.
Vincent Tan is still bankrolling the club, but it no longer seems to be a passion project for him and even prior to the Covid outbreak, he was largely an absent owner. Once upon a time, maybe the glamour of such a capture would have ignited his imagination and appealed to his competitive nature, but his industry has also been ravaged by the pandemic.
I always thought it would be instructive to see how the club were going to play the expiring contracts of Sol Bamba and Joe Bennett. Significant, long-standing players, but relatively big earners and both got cut. With parachute payments ending and the Emiliano Sala situation still unresolved, it was not a surprise, but my attention has now turned to the raft of players out of contract next summer and whether the same fate awaits them.
To go from that to signing Bale would be weird, but still amazing. If you have any leverage at all to sign a player like that, you should try and use it. The profile of the club would rocket, shirts would fly out of the club shop (but not enough to offset the cost. That never happens and is an often-recycled myth) and it would inspire a whole generation.
Has he signed yet?!