Gareth Bale is joining nine-time European soccer champion Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur on a six-year contract after the teams reached an agreement on the Wales winger’s transfer a day before the trade period ends.
Real Madrid will pay Spurs 78 million pounds ($121 million) in a single installment, an executive with the Spanish club said on condition of anonymity because the fee wasn’t disclosed in statements on the teams’ websites last night.
That’s 2 million pounds less than the record 80 million pounds Madrid paid to Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo. Bale was signed for a record fee of 85 million pounds, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported on its website, without saying where it got the information. His six-year deal will pay him 300,000 pounds a week, the BBC added.
“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,” Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy said on his club’s website last night. “We have, therefore, with great reluctance, agreed to this sale.”
Bale, known for his surging runs and match-winning shooting, was voted the best player in England’s Premier League last season by his peers and soccer writers. A pivotal moment in his career came in October 2010 in a Champions League group game at title-holder Inter Milan. Tottenham was down to 10 men and losing 4-0 when Bale scored three second-half goals to reduce the deficit to 4-3 and boost his growing reputation.
Bale’s move was sealed last night after weeks of negotiations during which Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy was a “hard, hard” negotiator with Real Madrid, Bale told reporters. Bale, 24, was presented to about 20,000 fans at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium today.
“I wanted to come here, for a penny or whatever” the transfer fee was, Bale told a news conference. “I’ve always loved Spanish football. I had the Real Madrid shirt when I was nine, 10 or 11.”
Real set a world record four years ago when it signed Ronaldo from United and previously paid record fees for Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane.
Bale, who was one year into a four-year contract at Tottenham, scored 55 goals in 203 appearances since joining the north London club from Southampton in May 2007. He said joining Real was an opportunity he could not let slip away.
“I have had six very happy years at Tottenham but it’s the right time to say goodbye,” Bale said in a statement on Tottenham’s website. “We’ve had some special times together over the years and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Bale made his professional debut for Southampton in 2006 at the age of 16 and was traded to Tottenham a year later. He played 24 winless Premier League games for Spurs before a victory against Burnley in 2009, when he came on as a late substitute.
Real has used its star players to bolster revenue from sponsorships and replica jerseys, becoming soccer’s biggest club by sales in 2005.
It has since been eclipsed on the field by archrival Barcelona. Real won one of the past five Spanish league titles, Barca taking four, and is without a Champions League crown since 2002. Barcelona has won three in that time.
Bale’s move to the Bernabeu comes three months after Barcelona agreed to pay 57 million euros ($75.2 million) in transfer fees and commissions to acquire Brazilian forward Neymar from Santos.
Real had sales of 514 million euros for the year through June 2012, more than any other sports team, according to the club’s website. Tottenham was the 13th biggest soccer team by sales in the 2011-12 season, with 178 million euros of revenue, according to Deloitte LLP.
Bale’s sale will help Spurs to offset more than 100-million pounds of signings since last season. The team added players including Argentina winger Erik Lamela, Spain striker Roberto Soldado, Brazil midfielder Paulinho, Belgian winger Nacer Chadli and Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen.
The additions helped persuade Levy to let Bale go, even if it was with “great reluctance.”
“Gareth was a player we had absolutely no intention of selling,” said Levy, who added that Spurs did so “in the knowledge that we have an exceptionally strong squad.”
Tottenham also faces the cost of a planned 56,000-seat stadium. The project could boost matchday revenue and help narrow the financial gap on the richest English clubs, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.
European soccer’s transfer window closes today.