When you're one of the most wanted players in the world, something that comes with praise and hype from the media is speculation over your future. Trying to figure out the next step in your career becomes less of a simple task; you only have to ask Belgian winger Eden Hazard why it only took him the best part of three months before finally opting to join European champions Chelsea from Lille in a £32 million deal.
A sensational move to Spain could be on the cards for a young left winger who hails from the Welsh town of Whitchurch.
Sweeping aside his obvious talent and success, it's easy to forget that once upon a time, Gareth Bale cut an isolated figure at his club, Tottenham Hotspur, where he moved to from Southampton as a 17-year-old back in 2007. For two years at Spurs, he was known as the 'unlucky charm', because up until his 24th game in a Tottenham shirt, when he came on in the 85th minute during their 2-0 win over Burnley, Bale had the misfortune of never being on the winning side. Needless to say, this still remains a Premier League record.
Out of form and out of luck, Bale, who was playing in his natural left-back position at the time, was dropped from the starting eleven by Harry Redknapp in favour of Cameroonian international Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The Welshman once heralded as his country's finest upcoming talent had fallen to rock bottom, with a swift loan exit looking more and more likely.
However, Redknapp saw his pace and potential, and decided to give him a new role at left wing after some breathtaking performances against Inter Milan and Chelsea. Bale then shot to stardom in the Premier League, using his pace to terrify defenders and his wicked left foot to deliver tantalising crosses into the box, and just like that, Gareth Bale was back in the limelight.
His performances, of course, did not go unnoticed. The manner in which he disposed of Inter's right-back Maicon, who was one of the best in the world at the time, was astounding, beating him with raw pace and scoring a superb brace in their 4-3 defeat to the Italian giants.
With Bale's performances came speculation. The tabloids seemed keen for the 23-year-old to move to Old Trafford to link up with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes. Other more reliable sources claimed that Manchester City were readying a bid in the region of £40 million. Speculation aside, it highlighted his remarkable rise from the obscurity of warming the bench to Redknapp's key man.
It didn't take long, though, for the Spanish giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona to declare their interest in signing the former Southampton starlet. Pep Guardiola was a keen admirer of youthful players with blistering pace and tremendous work rate, hence the signing of Alexis Sanchez from Udinese, while Jose Mourinho simply admired the way Bale had taken apart his former side Inter Milan at the San Siro. And for 'The Special One,' that was all he needed to see.
The only stumbling block for both sides in moving for Bale is the array of attacking talent in their respective squads. Barcelona, under Tito Vilanova, are currently top of La Liga with 43 points from a maximum 45, and with 50 goals scored in those 15 games. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Pedro, Andres Iniesta and David Villa on their books, they're not a side who lack creativity or composure in front of goal. And as the saying goes, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Why would Los Cules attempt to sign another forward with their attackers in great form?
In the heart of the capital, at the historical Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is Jose Mourinho's squad brimming with some of the world's finest talent. In every position, there are at least two players who are either world-class or capable of filling in when there is an injury. There is no doubt that Angel Di Maria, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. are commanding astronomical wages because they are players of the highest standard in the world football. Yet, you feel Los Merengues are lacking that one special player who can change a game just like Ronaldo or Messi can. And that's where Bale comes in.
The Madridstas, who are Real Madrid's loyal followers, are desperate for the club to carry on where they left off from last season's domestic success, where they pipped Barcelona to the La Liga title. With the La Masia side well implemented at Barcelona, it could be difficult for Bale to break through the Catalan barrier that the club has done ever so well to build.
So where next for Bale? Well, certainly he would do his career no harm by staying at Spurs under Andre Villas-Boas, with the club challenging for Europe and Bale by a long stretch the star man at White Hart Lane. Yet, with the highly-rated winger standing at 23 years old, and a longing ambition to play in La Liga, it could be the right time to ply his trade at the world's most successful club. And that club, ladies and gentlemen, is Real Madrid.
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