Bale's plea tests Levy to the limit: Welsh wizard wants £200k a week to stay after Spurs miss out on the Champions League
Tottenham need to act quickly. Reaching the Champions League is like a promotion and they missed out again, effectively beaten in the play-offs. It can leave scars.
Monday’s revelations about what it would cost to secure the future of Gareth Bale, who is asking for £200,000 a week to stay at Spurs for at least one more year, are a test of chairman Daniel Levy’s ambition.
If, as expected, Levy agrees to his demands, Bale would become the club’s biggest earner, but more importantly it would be a ‘hands-off’ to those who covet the 23-year-old and a message to potential transfer targets that Tottenham intend to build on their highest points return in the Barclays Premier League.
It would also be a message to boost hope among fans after another bitter end to a campaign.
Tottenham missed the top four by a point and they know that if they are to survive in such company they must keep in step with wealthier clubs who are braced for summer splurges.
Key to that is Bale. With him in the team no game is out of reach, as he proved again on Sunday. He can snatch a point from defeat or turn one into three with a blast of turbo or a swish of his left leg.
Lose the Footballer of the Year 12 months after losing Luka Modric and it would be hard to convince anyone you’re serious about reaching the top. Keep him at a time when the club has moved forward off the pitch with a new training centre and stadium development and another bid to lure Franco Baldini — former assistant to Fabio Capello at England — in a sporting director’s role and it all inspires confidence ahead of a vital summer of squad-building.
A policy of selling their best players has undermined Arsenal over the past eight years and they have slipped from being regular title contenders to jostling with Spurs for a place in the Champions League play-offs.
Arsene Wenger always maintained it was easier to keep a British talent than foreign players with no deep roots in the region. Cesc Fabregas moved home and Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri made professional career choices, as they did when they chose to sign for Arsenal. Wenger has been able to keep Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere.
As for Bale, for all his desire to play in the Champions League, there are people at Tottenham who always felt they may have more time because of his homespun nature. His girlfriend Emma lives in Wales with their baby daughter, born in October. Harry Redknapp once joked that when he gave Bale a few days off for rest and recuperation, he would dash back to Cardiff rather than jetting to Dubai.
The fact that Modric’s transfer to Real Madrid has not been a total success will perhaps play out favourably, too, as timely evidence that the grass is not always greener.
There is also mutual respect and understanding between Bale and manager Andre Villas-Boas, who helped reshape his star player’s game when the Wales wizard feared he was being restricted on the left wing.
Bale must feel he is developing under Villas-Boas and is ready to repay that with loyalty. In return, he gets a serious pay rise and the club get a lift after the agony of missing out on the Champions League again.
Bale did not leave White Hart Lane on Sunday like someone bidding farewell. He did not linger. There was no final glance from a man who did not know when he might return. He was among the first down the tunnel once the subdued lap of honour was over.
Tottenham chairman Levy said: ‘We shall continue to strengthen the team and retain key players.’
Levy has managed the contracts of Spurs’ young players carefully, exchanging a small pay rise for an extra year to guard the club’s interests.
Bale’s prospective deal will not end the interest of richer clubs, especially Real if they lose Cristiano Ronaldo. Bale is one of football’s hottest properties and, in the long run, may have to leave White Hart Lane to fulfill his ambitions, but why rush? Ronaldo was 24 and restless for Iberian life — not to mention more money — when he left Manchester United.
Bale is young, settled and this Spurs team are being built for him. He can relax and enjoy his daughter’s first summer without rushing around looking for a new life.
And, in a year’s time, we will have a better idea if the AVB revolution is taking Spurs where they want to go or if it is time to move on.