Midfielder Gareth Bale’s transfer to Real Madrid, from Tottenham Hotspur, was finally completed Sunday, and Tottenham Coach André Villas-Boas told reporters in London that Bale had “left us with great memories.”
There was no official word on the size of the transfer fee, but Madrid was believed to have paid a record 100 million euros (about $130 million) to add Bale, a Welsh star, to its luminous roster.
Bale, 24, was one year into a four-year contract with Spurs, but he and the club were ultimately overwhelmed by Madrid’s persistence and money. The fee, if confirmed, would be about 7 million euros ($9 million) higher than what Madrid paid to acquire Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
“Gareth was a player we had absolutely no intention of selling as we look to build for the future,” Daniel Levy, Tottenham’s chairman, said in a statement. “Such has been the attention from Real Madrid, and so great is Gareth’s desire to join them, that we have taken the view that the player will not be sufficiently committed to our campaign in the current season. We have, therefore, with great reluctance, agreed to this sale and do so in the knowledge that we have an exceptionally strong squad.”
Bale, in a statement, thanked Spurs fans for their support but conceded that joining Madrid was something he had hoped would happen.
“I have had six very happy years at Tottenham, but it’s the right time to say goodbye,” he said. “I am not sure there is ever a good time to leave a club where I felt settled and was playing the best football of my career to date. I know many players talk of their desire to join the club of their boyhood dreams, but I can honestly say this is my dream come true.”
The deal was hardly a surprise. Speculation about the transaction dominated sports news cycles around the world over the past week as negotiations seemed to stall just short of a conclusion. Most observers said they thought the move would be completed much sooner, but Levy seemed determined to complete Tottenham’s other transfer business before signing off on the biggest move.
Fans, as well as some Madrid executives, were frustrated by the delay, and there was speculation that Tottenham was engaged in a bit of gamesmanship. By delaying the completion of the deal, Tottenham may have kept Madrid from selling the rights to other players in the interim.
The holdup also left Madrid in the embarrassing position of having to dismantle a stage that had been built inside the team’s stadium last week in anticipation of a public introduction of Bale as the club’s newest star. The stage blocked the view of the field from the director’s box, and with a home game scheduled for Sunday, Madrid had little choice but to take the stage down.
Whether it returns for Bale’s introduction, which could be as soon as Monday, remains to be seen, but the more important question is how quickly Madrid can expect Bale to contribute. Bale was the player of the year in the Premier League last season and scored 26 goals for Spurs, but he did not participate in most of Tottenham’s preseason work this summer because of nagging injuries. He last played in a match
Bale was also named to the Wales team that will play World Cup qualifying matches on Friday and on Sept. 10, but it was unclear how his move to Madrid would affect his participation.