By George Ogier
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The biggest star in the Spurs team signs a contract extension to stay at the club. This is reportedly on the proviso that they’re allowed to leave if certain “big clubs”come calling. Real Madrid do indeed knock at a well-worn front door and then all hell breaks loose.
If you believe everything you read – and you’d have some odd opinions if you did – Daniel Levy has been at it again. In 2011 it was suggested that Levy had persuaded Luka Modric to sign a contract extension with a gentleman’s agreement concerning the terms whereby Modric would be allowed to leave the club.
In that instance it was Chelsea who made the initial move but Levy stood his ground and Modric joined Real Madrid 12 months later. Another year on and Los Blancos are back, this time for Gareth Bale and there is a depressing inevitability about the whole situation.
“Sources” have been busy in the last seven days. The latest line to come from people buzzing around Gareth’s recently streamlined ears is that Bale only re-signed for Spurs when Levy said that the PFA player of the year would be allowed to join Real Madrid should they want him.
Whatever the truth of the situation it is one in which Spurs fans have plenty of experience and very little enjoyment. Once again, the team shows signs of really being able to push on and once again the club looks likely to lose its best player.
People have pointed to the departures of Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick and Modric as a template for these wranglings but only the Modric saga is really applicable in this case. When Berbatov and Carrick joined Manchester United Tottenham were a very different animal.
When Carrick and Berbatov left Tottenham the club were routinely beaten by those in the sides in the top four. Spurs had almost finished fourth in 05/06 but that was due to the poor form of others as much a stellar Spurs season.
Last term Tottenham finished with their record points total in the Premier League. In any other year 72 points would have guaranteed a fourth place finish and even second place in some seasons. Spurs are now a match for any team in the top division and are in a position to build a team capable of great things.
This potential is brought into a slightly sharper focus when you consider the managerial changes at the top of the league. Four of the top six clubs and all of the top three have switched managers over the summer. It is reasonable to suggest that one of these changes won’t go as smoothly as expected and a talented but stable team could well take advantage of such upheaval.
Obviously I write this with a huge slice of bias but I genuinely think that Spurs are two or three good signings from being a real force in the Premier League. However, that claim comes with a large caveat and it is simply this. The club cannot afford to keep selling its star performers.
The idea of Gareth Bale playing alongside new signings like Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, and possibly Roberto Soldado is exciting for any Spurs fan. In a season where so many changes are taking place, keeping hold of a talented coach and a genuinely world-class player could make a huge difference.
Whilst it is easy to get carried away with such dreams there is an ugly reality to consider. Players don’t join Tottenham because they think they can win things. They join because, like it or not, the club are a stepping stone. You would have to go back to 1994 for the last time Spurs signed a genuinely top-level superstar, and even then it was the already 30-year-old, Jurgen Klinsmann.
Tottenham are a bridge between smaller English or continental sides and the huge teams of Europe. Players join Spurs because they can perform in a good side and get noticed by better ones. Carrick, Berbatov and Modric all came from smaller clubs and moved on to bigger things.
The players who join and don’t move up the ladder find their level – Defoe, Dawson, looking at his subsequent career, Robbie Keane – and stay. Otherwise they drop off and are moved on, David Bentley, Helder Postiga, Sergei Rebrov etc. Spurs are a perfect shop window for talented, driven players and Gareth Bale is both.
There is one big difference between the Bale situation and those which have gone before. Gareth is good enough to help Spurs make the jump from stepping stone to a side capable of great things, few of Tottenham’s past stars have had that ability.
Even with that in mind we have to accept that Bale knows his own worth. By joining Real Madrid he could have La Liga and Champions League medals in less than twelve months. The Welshman would be joining a team already capable of winning the lot. Staying with a team that is clearly a work in progress, even if it moving in the right direction, is hardly as appealing.
As a Tottenham supporter I would dearly love Gareth Bale to stay at White Hart Lane. The romantic in me dreams of watching a side built around his talents for years to come. However, the realist in me knows that it an unlikely outcome. I just hope that the situation is resolved as quickly as possible.