New deal begs the question: Why isn’t Gareth Bale a more celebrated player?
Real Madrid, on Sunday, confirmed that Bale has signed a new contract until 2022 with a buy-out clause reportedly set at £900 million, meaning the rumors linking him to a Premier League return can finally cease. Bale has been a success in the Spanish capital, from the moment he ended his first season with a stunning goal in the Copa del Rey final win over Barcelona and the crucial goal to put his team ahead in the Champions League final too.
In Spain, he has won two Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup and a Copa del Rey. Now in his fourth season at Real Madrid, he has scored 50 goals in 90 league appearances.
So why are people down on him? Or at least, why is there not more pride in the United Kingdom that one of its own players, a product of the Southampton academy, is among the best in the world?
Bale lost some goodwill during his second season, when his agent, Jonathan Barnett, complained that his teammates were not passing to him as much as they were to Karim Benzema or Cristiano Ronaldo. Barnett has the last laugh: Bale, now 27, will reportedly earn £350,000 per week and become the most expensive player in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo is close to a new deal and may yet overtake him.
It does seem peculiar that Bale, the talismanic figure in Wales’s run to the Euro 2016 semifinal, is not more popular. Where were the stories Monday praising his talents, off the pitch as much as on it, for making life work in a dressing room as complicated as Madrid’s?
Real Madrid is currently appealing a FIFA ruling banning it from registering players until January 2018. That has made tying down its current stars an absolute priority: Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez have all extended their deals in recent weeks. Bale may have benefited financially from this ruling but when it comes to the Hollywood-ization of the club, as Professor Anita Elberse argues in her excellent book “Blockbusters,” Real Madrid knows and understands the value of its stars.
Bale was involved in two of Madrid’s goals in the 4-1 win at Alaves which kept the club narrowly ahead of Barcelona (two points back), and Atletico Madrid and Sevilla (three points). Once again Ronaldo took the headlines with a hat trick (and a missed penalty). Bale won’t mind: it keeps alive his chances of a first Spanish title–but this contract will ensure he has a few more years of trying.