Is Real Madrid's Gareth Bale bid distasteful?
Gareth Bale's face lights up Times Square as part of NBC's promotion of its English Premier League coverage. (Getty Images)
August 27th, 2013
01:33 PM ET

Is Real Madrid's Gareth Bale bid distasteful?

“A lack of respect for the world we live in.”

That was the damning assessment Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino had for the widely-expected transfer of Wales star Gareth Bale to his side’s archrivals Real Madrid.

As manager of one of Spain’s two footballing giants his role almost dictates that verbal provocation is aimed west to the capital, but it’s not just the Catalan faithful who would have been sympathetic to the Argentine’s rhetoric.

As rumours that a world transfer record of €100 million ($133 million) could be set to bring Bale to the Bernabeu, many have found the value distasteful, grotesque and somehow out-of-touch with the austere global economic reality of 2013.

Strange that Martino felt so morally outraged - Barca stumped up a not-so-tiny €57 million to secure the talent of Brazilian hotshot Neymar as recently as June – but no matter.

Noughts are clearly offensive numbers and the thought of eight being used to value a football player is a further sign of the decline of European civilization.

Not that Real has good history in this department. For a team synonymous with Galacticos and gargantuan spending, Los Blancos became the first club to surpass revenues of €500m in a single year back in January (an increase of 7% on the previous 12 months according to Deloitte).

And these revenues are built on three, robust income streams: broadcast rights, matchday money and commercial profits, none of which are going anywhere soon and that contributed to a €200m profit for the club in the five years preceding 2012.

How many multi-national companies can boast such figures?

Not that Real, like few other clubs, have the power to create the megastar needed to recoup their outlay.

It’s a potentially profit-making, self-fulfilling prophecy: by signing a player for a headline-making fee the rising star becomes global phenomena in an instant.

Fans from Dubai to Delhi want to buy a Real shirt with the new hero’s name on the back and will salivate over watching him play on pay-per-view TV.

In short, a narrative of a superman is created that fans find hugely attractive, compelling to follow and worth investing in.

It’s one of the great dramas of football and a factor that has made it such a fertile franchise for attracting sponsorship.

Football is now a global entertainment in the modern day. Few complain about Tom Cruise earning around $35m a year (according to Forbes) for making films of utter dross but for some reason when it comes to asking a soccer star to perform week-in, week-out at the highest level, to compete in and often win competitions that captivate the world and to sprinkle football games that create huge profits with their genius, this is somehow beyond the pale?

Football is not the game of old, it’s as blockbuster as Hollywood and far more reliable to boot. The market decides the value of a player, and though poor value for money purchases are common, history would suggest Madrid –- or Manchester United, who have also been linked with the player - know the real deal when they see it.

Who doesn’t have sympathy with the thousands in Spain and around the world who struggle to find employment, but this should not deny a person earning what their talent deserves. If and when the Bale deal takes place, this sentiment will surely hold true.

Elsewhere …

Bad luck Bruno Labbadia, who became the first coach sacked in the Bundesliga just three games, and three defeats, into the season. Stuttgart announced on Twitter they had parted company with the 47-year-old after a 2-1 defeat to Augsburg. German football writer Raphael Honigstein felt the board had to act but that a sacking in August doesn’t reflect well on anyone.

Well done Elche, who played their first top-flight game in Spain for a quarter of a century and scored within five touches from kick off. “Not since the fall of the Berlin Wall had Elche been in La Liga. Eight thousand, eight hundred and thirty-three days later, the Martínez Valero stadium hosted a top-flight game at last, with 23,859 fans in attendance. One minute and 18 seconds later it erupted: Elche were in front,” Spanish football writer Sid Lowe commented.

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soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. ceboscuit

    While I understand your point about Bale, why shouldn't a team be able to spend what it wants to put the best team on the field? Hasn't Real Madrid earned the right to spend what they want (i.e. Yankees?)

    August 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply
    • Javier - Spain

      NO, they don't have the right to spend "their" money on whatever they want, and I'll tell you 2 reasons why not (there are more)

      1.- Real Madrid owes hundred of millions of euros in taxes
      2.- Most part of Ronaldo's transfer to Real Madrid (about the same magnitude of Bale's transfer) was granted by BANKIA. You might remember that Bankia is the Bank which very recently had to be bailed out by the spanish goverment with a huge amount of money (about 25 billion euros).

      To sum up, Real Madrid doesn't pay its taxes and moreover they get their transfers paid with taxpayer's money.

      Anything else you don't understand?

      August 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Reply
      • Rodrigo - Spain

        Seriously, you are going to blame the financial foils of a bank to a soccer player contract?? Get back to reality. The Cajas needed bailout because the overall status of their assets, investments and credit portfolio is not financially sound. They were irresponsible with the money and put it on high risk investments and loans. That is why they need bailout. Financing an institution like Real Madrid is actually less risky (or not risky) than many many of the other actions by Cajas and Banks in Spain. So, no, the taxpayers are NOT paying Cristiano Ronaldo's contract, Real Madrid can pay very well. What we are financing as taxpayers is the overall immorality and irresponsibility of these institutions, and their ridiculous investment decisions, which are much larger (as you said, $25 billion euros) than a soccer contract that has NOT gone into default.
        Learn your facts before you post!

        August 28, 2013 at 10:05 am |
      • ceboscuit

        Thanks for the knowledge, Javier. Didn't need you to get snarky at the end. What I do know is that as long as there is no salary cap in a given sport, the teams with the most money (be it legit or not) are going to spend it. It doesn't always translate to wins, but there are players that want to play for that team because they know they can get paid.

        Also, seems those people that root for Real Madrid have no problem where the players come from as long as they're winning. Not necessarily right, but is what it is.

        August 28, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Javier - Spain

      ceboscuit, I feel really sorry for my inappropiate last sentence in my comment. Totally out of place !!! I realised right away after posting my message.

      At least there is one good thing about my stupid comment ... I have learned a new word in english ... snarky 🙂

      (I have already apologized, but I it hasn't been published, so I try again)

      August 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Reply
      • ceboscuit

        All good bro. I get your point about Real Madrid. Doesn't seem fair, but with no governance they seem to do what they want.

        August 29, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  2. 80deg16minW

    It is only distasteful to those supporters whose team is not benefitting from it. If they were getting Bale or 100 million euros they would be all over it.

    August 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
    • John

      Really? I've been a Spurs fan for 25 years and as far as I'm concerned you can shove the money.

      August 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Reply
    • Moe

      on the contrary, i would be ashamed if i was supporting such a team.

      August 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  3. Ken Tucker

    Madrid is south of Barcelona.

    August 27, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • Jurgen

      and Dubai and Delhi aren't even that far apart... if their fan base is between those two cities, then they have a problem... 😉 on a side note, there's definitely a geography issue with this article... 😉

      August 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Reply
    • Ben Wyatt, Digital Sport EditorCNN

      You're right! Thank you for pointing out the inaccuracy, I've now amended.

      August 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  4. erco

    Madrid is being financed with loans by banks that receive billions in government suppport from spain and the EU. that is the truly distateful thing.

    August 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Reply
    • brian

      theyre effectively just getting a mortgage on their assets, they can cover their loans many times over. . from a business point of view who cares if they spend 100 million if theyre going to earn 100+ million back??they have 500 million + fans so will easily make it back just from merchandise from bale

      August 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Reply
    • jlua

      Wrong. Banks didn´t receive bailout money from the EU. It was the "Cajas". "Cajas" are a sort of savings institutions owned and managed by the local "autonomías" (the equivalent of US States). They were managed by politicians rather than by professional bankers, and that´s why they got into trouble. Spanish banks not only didn´t receive bailout money, but are amongst the strongest and best managed anywhere. In fact, in 2012, the Bank of Santander was awarded "Best bank in the World" award by Euromoney. The Real Madrid get s its funding from Spanish banks, not "Cajas".

      August 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Reply
      • whatever

        check banco de valencia

        August 28, 2013 at 12:18 am |
      • Javier - Spain

        Wrong. Ronaldo's transfer was funded by Bankia (Caja Madrid), which is (or at least at the time was) a "Caja". Shortly after Bankia had to be bail out with around 25 billion euros of tax-payer's money.

        Conclusion: Real Madrid DID get their money for transfers from "Cajas" and ultimately from the spanish taxpayer. SHAMEFUL.

        August 28, 2013 at 7:32 am |
      • Faz

        I'm guessing Javier is not a Madrid fan? 🙂

        August 30, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  5. Sergio

    You might want to do a little bit of research on Spain before writing an article on it. 1) Madrid is not north of Barcelona, it's west. And 2), there are millions of unemployed in Spain, not thousands.

    August 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  6. Moudi

    Where is the money coming from? Certainly should not be on unsecured loans funded by ordinary tax payers. who have no interest in football. Do these clubs pay VAT and capital gains tax on such transactions?

    If European clubs are happy to pay such sums then surely it is up to their fans to pay the cost of new players through increased ticket prices, higher TV coverage fees and club memorabilia.

    August 27, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  7. PlanetHarris

    Erco is 100% correct! In Holland it was reported that Spain recieved 40 billion from the EU last year to stabilise their banks!
    Real Madrid already have huge debts which they state is manageable and once again they are going for a player they simply don't need, if you look at their current squad and the amount of talent already in place. @Ceboscuit your logic is flawed – right to spend what they want is only applicable if the money is yours to spend in the first instance, this is clearly not the case.

    August 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Reply

    Blame Tottenham for their asking price and not Madrid who desperately need the player.

    August 27, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Reply
    • John

      Don't blame Tottenham for the price. Tottenham do not want to sell Bale as he is a valuable member of their squad. How do you value what they consider to be a priceless asset!! If Real Madrid want him Tottenham need to be compensated accordingly.

      August 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Reply
      • Nomeralles

        How is Tottenham not to be blamed here? If Bale wants to leave, which he clearly does, the distasteful thing is to obstruct his leave by poisoning relations between the two clubs and asking for preposterous amounts of money for a player who isn't worth more than 60 million. Real Madrid is among the top 3 or 4 European clubs, if they are interested in Tottenham players then of course it's going to be their best and they are willing to pay higher than average to compensate. They did give you Van der Vaart who proved to be a key member in Tottenhams squad. The only shameful attitude in this transaction is Levy's over-sensitive rhetoric which is harming Bale, the team and the club's relation with Real Madrid.

        August 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  9. Aman

    Why not all these Rich clubs make league of their own and let remaining clubs from different european leagues play in separate league ..then only we can see some actual competition in Football .

    August 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  10. Marcus Collins

    It is not only distasteful it is pure madness. 25% unemployment and supporters who cannot afford to buy essentials for their family. Madrid had a huge debt with Bankia which is saved by European tax money add to the mix that all Spanish clubs have combined billions in dollars of tax debts and it is about time that the rest of Europe let Spain know that it is game over.

    August 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  11. JoeOvercoat

    "Few complain about Tom Cruise earning around $35m a year": says who? Stars of every variety are rewarded well beyond their contribution to society/culture/you-name-it.

    August 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  12. rhodie1109

    When you see the cutbacks in essential services, i.e hospitals, police and fire services and also the extent of poverty that families are going through, it truly is obscene. The man kicks a piece of leather around, whoopdedoo!

    August 27, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  13. dado

    The whole world is in a financial crisis and they spend 133$ M in a footballer? omg... we're crazy.

    August 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Reply
    • Nomeralles

      It's a business, it's their risk to take but consider this; buying a sensational football player is an investment, you will recoup the money in shirt sales, image rights, increase in tv licenses to see this player, etc. Just think of Ronaldo, his cost was 92 million (euros) and estimates suggested that the club broke even in the first year, since then he's been a solid source of profit for the club.

      August 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  14. Randy

    Why are the Spanish people and media would think that they will not get their investment by hiring Bale? They are not the only fans of Real Madrid, many tourists who visit Santiago Bernabeu come from different countries and are buying a lot
    of Real Madrid merchandise. Many fans all over the world watch every match of Real Madrid thru paid cable subscription. If Bale could prove to be one of the most popular players, they will recoup their investment faster than they spent it.

    August 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  15. Randy

    Why don't you check how much does Tiger Woods earn every year by just hitting the ball across a green patch of land? Footballers work hard to maintain their high performance and only have maximum of 10 years of marketability, let them
    earn what they deserve to earn, that is the only way we can give value to their skills and talent. After all, the money that
    they get paid , they also spend , They also pay their taxes so the money goes around and help the economy.

    August 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  16. ManutdFan

    It doesn't matter whether it is distasteful or not, soccer is one of the only team sports in the world that has existing player values that determine overall worth. No American professional sports program could work with player values, just player contracts. Bale is a very good player, and I am just surprised that La Liga is interested in him. He has English football skills and I do not believe he will do well in Spanish league.

    It is however, distasteful for Real Madrid to be dishing out that much money for 1 player, when their competitors (besides Barcelona) can barely afford to compete with the 2 bigs in La liga. At least in EPL, no matter which player you sign, there is still a chance for the top 10 through the half of season have a chance to win the league title, compete in UEFA, or win league cups.

    CNN forgot to mention that in Spain, the estate taxes on footballers salaries are very low, compared to England where I believe they are getting taxed 35% give or take a few percent. That is also why these players are raking in a lot more of their paychecks. Incentive to go, essentially. We can safely say Gale could be making close to double if he moves to Spain

    August 27, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  17. Johny Alves

    It is distasteful when no other club is offering a bid even close to those digits...

    August 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • Nomeralles

      You can hardly blame Real Madrid for Levy's ridiculous expectations. If they've made this bid it's because Levy has turned down more reasonable ones in the past. Personally I think Bale is great but not worth more than 60-70 million euros. I mean he isn't even necessary in the team, who would you bench? Di Maria? Ozil?

      It works both ways, all the sensationalism brought up due to the transfer has made Bale the key target of the summer which will no doubt influence his image. Madrid can capitalize on this depending on the contract; i.e. if it includes his image rights, or even just through t shirt sales.

      August 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Reply
  18. Milan Marinkovic

    No, it is not distasteful at all. Because Bale's potential transfer to Real will not be financed by Spanish taxpayers' money (i.e. the state budget) but by Real Madrid Football Club. End of story.

    August 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  19. randolph

    If you put this deal in the context of the transfer window, it is not that ridiculous. Real is likely to sell two or three players in order to fund the fee for Bale – Striker Karim Benzema, playmaker Mesut Ozil, and winger Angel Di Maria – for way more than they are paying for Bale. The issue seem to be whether or not Bale is worth three players.

    August 27, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  20. Georgie

    an example of good research journalism.

    August 27, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  21. Avex

    It is only distasteful BECAUSE they are paying that much for Bale.

    People don't complain about how Barca pays for Neymar is because Neymar actually worth the price that was paid for.

    In the article, "Strange that Martino felt so morally outraged – Barca stumped up a not-so-tiny €57 million to secure the talent of Brazilian hotshot Neymar as recently as June – but no matter. "

    Well, Bale didn't basically help Wales to win the Confed Cup didn't he? Oh wait, Wales ain't even IN the Confed Cup. Lol.

    August 28, 2013 at 4:00 am | Reply
  22. Saj

    The purchase of Bale for that ridiculous amount of money is clearly a huge gamble. However, if Madrid wants to gamble with its own money, so be it. Why should it be a problem for others? Moreover, even though Madrid has been spending outrageous amounts of money to buy players every other year, it is still one of the most profitable and successful clubs in the world.. Finally, the earlier people realize that football clubs are now well fledged businesses, the better..

    August 28, 2013 at 7:51 am | Reply
  23. Faz

    It will be a sound investment over the long term. Assuming he stays free from injury and continues to play at the level we are used to seeing. Also I have been using analogies similar to your Tom Cruise one for years. It usually stops people in their tracks. 🙂

    August 30, 2013 at 11:33 am | Reply
  24. toggablogga

    Real Madrid's bid is a massive kick in the groin for financial fair play. Platini cannot be happy about this! let's not forget, if he ever excludes a smaller club from European football, he will have to do the same for the likes of Real Madrid. This could get messy!

    August 30, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  25. MG

    I believe we are forgetting one of the most important facts in this discussion: Real Madrid FC is first and foremost a football club with no actual purpose on real profit, meaning all revenues and profits are used to boast the club itself at all levels. Therefore, like all other football clubs by the way, they are not only inclined to but supposed to use all the money available to them as investment in the club it self (team, grounds, personel, etc...)
    The fa

    August 31, 2013 at 9:11 am | Reply
  26. MG

    The fact that teams like Man U, Madrid, etc... have sound structures and truly professional management and business models that allow them to have such large revenues, is only a reflection that unlike market speculation in the financial world, which is the only thing to be blamed for the current economic crisis, there are ways to make large amounts of money correctly in the current world situation.

    And by the way "ceboscuit" don't believe the cheap press info and get your facts straight! Taxes are up to date at Madrid FC,

    August 31, 2013 at 9:21 am | Reply
  27. Chris

    I disagree with your statement that this is "further sign of the decline of European civilization". Football and a transfer fee for a player does not reflect the current state of civilisation. Europe is still a vibrant and significant cultural,and economic and technological centre contributing to the world we all live in.

    What the transfer fee represents is distasteful and that in this day an age, where austerity is imposed on so many people for 'their good' that Real Madrid will buy Bale for an obscene and inflated value and then expect its fans to buy the shirts, merchandise and matches tickets to pay for it when they are struggling to put food on the table. Yes, the wealthy fans will have no trouble to do this, but it will be the dad who works 40+ hours a week on minimum wage who has a 5 year old son, who begs him every night to get him Bale's shirt that makes this transfer so outrageous.

    September 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Reply

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