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No, Gareth Bale isn’t coming back to Tottenham Hotspur

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It’d be super cool if it happened. It isn’t going to happen.

Real Madrid v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

As the silly season ramps up and the transfer rumor machine gets ready to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, we’re already seeing predictable rumors spring forth out of the ether. Some of the biggest ones involve one Gareth Frank Bale, late of Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton and one of the latest in a string of players that was supposed to supplant Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

Bale has been linked with a departure from Madrid since almost the minute he arrived, and after five injury-plagued seasons at Real, it’s looking as though this summer he will finally leave, probably for a return to the Premier League. And because everyone in football journalism likes a good circular story, Spurs are one of the clubs most strongly linked to him.

Take this story from Don Balon, which not only links Bale with a shock return to Spurs, but says that the agreement is already made, with Bale as a makeweight in a deal for Harry Kane.

It’s tempting when you see rumors like this to believe them, or at least want to believe them. Why wouldn’t Gareth want to come “home?”

So it’s worth writing this up once and only once, as a public service. We at Cartilage Free Captain try and help foster intelligent, informed, and critical Tottenham fans that don’t believe every rumor that floats in front of their smartphone screen. Let’s take a dive into this so we can put the whole thing to bed and never speak of it again.

Gareth Bale isn’t returning to Tottenham Hotspur.

Now, let’s talk about exactly why.

Bale’s transfer fee is too high

Tottenham sold Bale in 2013 for a staggering £85.3m, a figure that was at that point a world-record transfer fee. According to Don Balon, Madrid currently values him at £90m, which is actually slightly reasonable in today’s crazy transfer market. That same article says Spurs only rate him at £60m. Even accounting for the possibility that Florentino Perez would sanction Bale’s sale at that price, that still represents £18m over Spurs’ current record signing — the £42m they paid last summer for Davinson Sanchez.

Now factor in Tottenham’s usual propensity for breaking even or operating a small surplus in their transfer dealings. With the expected sales of Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, and possibly Mousa Dembele this summer, Tottenham can probably technically afford to spend £60m or more on Bale, but it probably wouldn’t leave much left in the coffer, and Bale doesn’t really do anything to address the positions of need Spurs have this summer. Bale would likely be the one major signing Spurs would make, and his signing would leave glaring holes in central midfield and defense to augment an attack that’s already pretty good.

Spurs sure as heck aren’t selling Harry Kane to finance a move for Bale

In every Spanish media rumor linking Bale to Spurs, there’s always the reverse side of the coin — the rumor that puts Harry Kane in a Real Madrid shirt in exchange. In a world where Harry Kane is deeply upset with what is happening at Tottenham and is ready to flip Daniel Levy the double bird and take his wife and Ivy to sunny Spain, this might be a plausible scenario. Spurs would get their former icon back plus a bunch of money to finance other players, and Madrid get Spurs’ younger, better want-away icon in exchange.

But Kane has no interest in leaving, and has never expressed any interest in heading to Madrid. Apart from something along the lines of an apocalyptic-level fist-fight between himself and Mauricio Pochettino, Kane’s staying put. There’s no way he is sold.

Bale is a quickly depreciating asset

Gareth Bale is 28 years old. That means he’s potentially still in his prime playing years, but unless he turns out to be a physical freak of nature like Ronaldo he’s probably at the peak of his abilities right now. It also means that he’s at the point where he will start to lose a step of pace, or his skills will slowly begin to decline.

Now factor in that each of the past three seasons has seen Bale miss time with at least one significant injury. It seems likely that trend would continue at whatever club signs him, making Bale a high risk signing. And as his age increases, the amount that Spurs could potentially recoup from his eventual sale decreases. Even at £24m less than what they made when they sold him, buying Bale doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Spurs are a club that have been trending towards purchasing talented young players that can develop into stars. That hasn’t always been the case (hello, Fernando Llorente), but it would go against that pattern to make such a huge, impactful signing of a player when they would likely only get a couple of quality years out of him.

Bale’s wages are INSANE

When Bale signed with Madrid in 2013, it was reported that his wages were going to be around £280k/week. When he signed his latest contract extension in 2016, that number jumped up to £350k/week... after taxes. That’s fantastic for Gareth. I’m glad he got paid! It does, however, complicate any potential move to a different club.

Tottenham’s wage structure is well-documented, and derided. Hugo Lloris and Kane are the two highest wage earners at the club, taking home around £100k/week. While those wage restrictions are likely to be loosened somewhat as Spurs move into the new stadium, it becomes kind of hard to imagine that Bale, in the twilight of his career, would agree to make potentially a third of his Madrid wages just to come back to north London.

But let’s say that Spurs bring Bale in and make him the club’s highest wage earner at... say, £150k/week. What would that do to team morale? What would Kane, Lloris, or any of the other players think about it?

This, more than any other reason, is why Bale will not sign with Spurs this summer. He’ll probably need to take a modest pay cut at whatever club actually does sign him, but it’s hard to imagine that he would willingly make that much less money unless he really loved the club he’s moving to, and there aren’t any indications he feels THAT fondly about his time at Tottenham.

The source is LOL

Don Balon is the Express of the Spanish media, and that’s saying a lot. They’re garbage.


Gareth Bale is a fantastic player. He’s given me, and many other Spurs fans, many memorable moments, and he was at times a world-beater. While he perhaps hasn’t lived up to the title of Galactico at Madrid, he would undoubtedly improve Spurs next season, and is a player whom many fans would love to see back at Tottenham as they open up their new stadium next season.

But while we can wish upon a star, the reality is that there are too many potential hurdles in the way of a deal that would make sense for both Madrid and for Spurs. Instead, it’s much more likely that if he does return to the Premier League, it will be with the OTHER club linked to him — Manchester United. The Red Devils have the financial clout to buy him outright and pay him close to what he’d make at Madrid, and wouldn’t even have to break the bank to do so.

The truth hurts sometimes. But personally, I would much rather see Tottenham focus their time and energies into identifying and acquiring the next generation of top level talent than bring back one of their old stars who soon will likely start his decline. Mark this rumor as #batcountry and move on with your lives.