Gareth Bale has Tottenham's immediate future in the palm of his hand. For all we know, he has no intention of crushing our hopes and dreams of progressing on to bigger things by forcing a move away this offseason. But he still yet could, and that should be cause for major concern.
Partially, this is about the way the team plays. As should be obvious to anyone who followed Spurs this term, Andre Villas-Boas has started to build Tottenham's whole approach around utilising Bale as a centre-forward. With this level of trust and responsibility placed on his shoulders, he has evolved into a truly world-class player capable of determining ties single-handedly. His existence in the first XI next season this has obvious tactical repercussions that bear no more prolonged analysis.
But Tottenham's reliance on Bale is no longer an issue confined to the pitch, and this for me is the true source of worry. His existence within the squad is now the cornerstone on which a whole summer of transfer activity rests. Because Bale is no longer simply another very decent player within a wider squad in the eyes of the wider world- he is a selling point, a landmark on the map of British football to which other players will flock. What this means is, if he remains with the side, Spurs will be in a fantastic position in the transfer market in dealing with the Villas and Damiaos of this world; because quite simply, how many players in the world right now would like to play in a team with a player like him right now? Yet again, this cuts both ways. Lose Bale, and we use this club's main attraction to other players. We're left more at square one, in fact, than this time last season.
When we missed out on Champions League and lost Luka Modric last year, to be fair, you could reasonably assert that we were left in the same situation which we subsequently survived. Yet in my opinion the two contexts aren't quite comparable. Last summer, there was a myriad of other reasons why players might have still opted to join Spurs over a bidding rival. Tottenham had only missed out on the CL through a technicality; the appointment of a new coach portended a new dawn and forward movement. And of course, there was the draw of playing with Bale thrown into the mix. This time out, everything comes back to Bale. He was the man who dragged us almost single-handedly towards a top four finish, despite the general good work done by the manager and the players; he was the root and source of our hopes of taking that big step forwards. And he still is, and that is going to have a huge effect on how potential new recruits view us in the months to come.
Of course, the horrible twist is that these two issues are cross-cutting. Having Bale shipped out means we're left with an urgent need to find a class replacement for him; but it also means we're robbed of the means to effectively and efficiently do so. If the Welsh wizard departs this summer, he takes from us with both hands.
To put it in simple terms, it's come to this: Bale stays, and we likely progress as a club. He leaves, and we likely regress. And I can't be the only person to think that this situation is an insanely precarious one to have slipped into going into this massive transfer window to come.