It has now been over five years since Gareth Bale made his massive move from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid. At the time, the £86 million fee set a world record for a football transfer.
Most people only remember a few things about Bale’s time at Spurs. They remember the fee, that tremendous final season, and that magical run in the Champions League in 2010/2011. But the reality is that Bale struggled for a bit at the club and was almost sold a few years before he really blossomed into the player he is now.
Mauricio Pochettino spoke a bit about that on Friday ahead of the Huddersfield match. Here are the quotes from our friend Dan Kilpatrick at the Evening Standard:
“Remember with Bale, only after three years he started to be a success. But they believed they signed a left-back and today he’s the opposite! That was a bit lucky because after three years, when they told me everything that happened, they wanted to [get rid of him]. You know the history better than me! In football, sometimes it’s so lucky. That’s the truth.”
Poch is 100% right. Can you imagine how poorly it would have reflected on Spurs if they had sold Bale to Nottingham Forest or Birmingham, as was rumored in 2010, and he had still gone on to become one of the best players on the planet?
Thankfully, Tottenham held onto the Welsh youngster. Then there was no way they could have sold him after that 2010/2011 season. That year proved to be Bale’s coming-out party to the world. Everyone saw his potential after that hat trick at the San Siro against Inter Milan.
Bale was signed from Southampton when they were still in the Championship, but Poch also noted that not every lower league player can find success at a higher level like Gareth did.
“Maybe you’ve signed Bale but many others fail. It’s about percentages. If every season you sign 10 young players, it’s a gamble. Normally, in ten, five are good, one is excellent and four disappear. Tottenham were always taking risks in history with signing players and many players were good and many not. You’re always going to remember Bale and Modric, the good ones. But if we find the full list, many players failed here, including in the season before I signed.”
Ouch! Pochettino taking a shot at the “Magnificent Seven.”
But again, he’s right. We love Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela for what they have done for the club, but for each of their success stories there is a less happy outcome at Spurs for Paulinho and Vlad Chiriches.
“Sure there are talents in the Championship, League One and below, but then you need to get lucky. You need some people like us to provide a platform. Dele is Dele because of Dele, but in the end the platform the club offered the player to develop needs to be right: right platform, right club, right person. The credit is for the player, but it’s not the same if Dele Alli arrived from Milton Keynes to another club. That’s why it’s so important the players have luck with interest from some clubs. Interest from Spurs is a massive thing because we have a very good platform to help youngsters improve. It’s not because the players are good or no good, it’s about how they adapt here. Not all good players can play here and maybe players that are not so good come here and then are so good. Everyone is different.”
Pochettino continues his trend of being a philosopher this season. We all remember that cow quote, but “Dele is Dele because of Dele” rolls off the tongue and sits well in the mind.
This is not to say that Spurs should abandon their policy of signing players from the lower leagues. Those players can often be purchased for cheap, and then if they develop (like Bale and Dele) their transfer fees end up looking quite paltry for the player that they have become.
Tottenham clearly haven’t gone away from this policy either. They tried to sign Jack Grealish this past summer, but ultimately did not want to pay what Aston Villa were asking for him.
It’s probably a positive sign that Pochettino is even discussing transfer policy. Maybe the club will actually buy some players in the upcoming transfer windows, even if they are young players from the lower divisions being taken on as an investment for the future.