The Bale transfer: Winners and losers

A lot more trophies might be in line

A lot more trophies might be in line for the Welshman.

After the amazing £100 million-plus spending spree carried out by Tottenham Hotspurs this summer, the departure of Gareth Bale is now only a matter of official confirmation. It earmarks the transformation of the club heralded by the arrival of manager André Villas-Boas last year.

So, how will the departure of last season’s holder of the PFA’s Players’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and FWA’s Player of the Year Award affect the Premier League and La Liga’s dynamics ?  Who stands to gain from the most highly anticipated transfer of the summer, and who will not do so well because of it?

The first and foremost beneficiary is obviously the club that will enjoy the versatile winger’s services, Real Madrid. They might even be able to recover part of the enormous outlay by shipping off Di Maria, Kaka and Coentrao. With Neymar arriving at Camp Nou, the renewed battle between the two Spanish giants might be more breathtaking than ever.

The next biggest rivalry in football.

The next big rivalry in football.

In fact the focus might even shift from Messi vs Ronaldo to Neymar vs Bale, and that would be one hell of a competition. In that sense, La Liga followers might also be termed the winners, getting to see the 4 biggest names in football right now on the same pitch.

The next obvious winner is the player himself, who will be able to showcase his abilities in the best club football competition in the World, the UEFA Champions League. He will play alongside his idol Cristiano Ronaldo, and players like Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Isco. He will play against the best sides in the World, the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and AC Milan.  One has to say that is where he belongs, and he now has a chance to prove himself against the best.

The more controversial question is about the future of Tottenham. How will they cope without the player who provided them 31 goals last season ? To be fair, that question has already been answered by AVB and Daniel Levy. Arrived at White Hart Lane have Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, who I reckon could provide them with a few goals this season themselves. In fact allow me to say Spurs have become a much better side without Gareth Bale. They have now depth and competition for virtually every place in the team and have been widely tipped major title contenders this season. They did not disappoint in their opening two fixtures, playing some eye-catching and flowing football, although winning by just one goal in each game.

So is everyone happy ? Life’s good ? Not really. There is a certain stubborn old Frenchman not far from White Hart Lane who has been eyeing these events with a typical frown on his typically worried face.

The summer overhaul of the squad by Tottenham is in major contrast to Arsenal’s meager two signings (yes, both free transfers), and the pressure is on Arsene Wenger to back his obstinate attitude with points on the table. He has put his impressive Champions League qualification record in jeopardy, and with important players getting injured, Spurs are most likely to finish above Arsenal after 18 years.

Meanwhile, Bale is in Spain with his lawyers to give the final touchings to his hefty 6-year contract. I’m sure his hands (or rather legs) would be itching to get started, as would the Spurs fans to watch their club finally trump Arsenal and just like the heads of Arsenal fans would be, trying make out which way their club is headed.

Why Spain’s days are over

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One week ago, the tables turned. Spain got a taste of their own medicine. An year back in the Euros final, Spain had thrashed a good looking Italian side 4-0. An year later, they were thrashed 3-0, got their poster boy sent off, and looked a shadow of the team that claimed consecutive European and World titles. They rode on luck throughout the tournament. Got the easier of the two groups, and had it not been for Italy’s missed chances and the brilliance of Casillas, Spain might not have crawled past the semis like they did, winning on penalties.

Parallels have often been drawn between Barcelona and Spain, and not surprisingly so. The two sides share the same core players. Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, Busquets, Fabregas, Villa, Jordi Alba, Pedro, are all automatic choices for both club and country. Consequently their style of play is identical. Short passes, intricate through balls, and midfield domination are typical for both sides. Since the last two seasons or so Barcelona has not been the formidable team they used to be (although that might change with the signing of Neymar). This was highlighted by the 7-0 drubbing on aggregate by Bayern Munich in this year’s Champions League semi final. When the same players went to Brazil with the same system, they were drubbed 3-0 by a home-charged Brazilian side. So, has the system been finally beaten?

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Spain’s formula is fairly simple. Tire out your opponents by making them chase the ball, then find little holes in their defense and exploit them with their precise through balls. And they are brilliant at it. What they are not brilliant at is chasing the game, working under pressure and fighting against time. In the World Cup and Euros, Spain nearly always scored the first goal. They would then tire and break the opponents morale, making him mindlessly chase the ball. That is why people started labelling their football ‘boring’. Because this way they could make it look a one-sided contest against the best of teams. But now the others have caught up. They have learned the best way to defeat this system is to score first, like Brazil did against Spain and Munich did against Barcelona. They then have to chase the game. Instead of dictating play, they have to force the issue, something they are evidently not good at. Why?

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The problem with Spain’s strategy is that it is inflexible and rigid. They do not know alot of ways to score goals except the one they use all the time. Their aerial threat is minimal, crossing ability mediocre, and free-kick goals negligible. Hence when they need to create something out of nothing, they fail miserably.

Spain met two brilliant and rising teams at the Confederations Cup. They struggled against both. At the World Cup next year, they meet atleast a dozen more, and at the same territory. Will Spain continue to dominate World Football? I don’t think so. But then again, they still have some of the best players in the World. The system might not be as formidable now, but these players are still class. So how will Spain fare in the Mega Event next year? Your guess is as good as mine.

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