TRANSFERS

Bale move could spark huge net spend

Welshman's arrival would break record; but it could be just the start

Bale: the apple of Pérez's eye.
Bale: the apple of Pérez's eye.Rebecca Naden / Reuters

In a country accustomed to bailouts, the long summer months without any action on the field have been more than covered by the endless saga of Bale in. Real Madrid's pursuit of the Welsh winger has been very public and concerted but Tottenham Hotspur, Bale's current paymaster, has remained steadfast in its determination not to sell. Or at least so it appears on the surface.

Spurs has been far from reticent in the transfer market, signing Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Nacer Chadli for a combined 60 million euros or so. Brazilian attacking midfielder Willian was in London for a medical ahead of a proposed 30-million move from Anzhi Makhachkala. If Tottenham is reinforcing and planning to keep Bale, the Premier League has a new contender. If it is covering for his departure, which on Thursday looked ever closer, Real has pretty much been told the price.

It has long been forecast that if Bale moves to the Bernabéu, the world transfer record will need to be broken. His price has dropped - and jaws have risen - from an initial estimate of 150 million euros, but it will still require nine figures to secure his signature. Or very close to nine figures plus Fabio Coentrão, the Portuguese left back who has grown disillusioned with life at Real.

Shops in Spain have apparently been quick to beat their competitors to the mark by rushing a few "Bale 11" shirts onto their stands. They could hardly be more different than Arsène Wenger; the Arsenal coach announced after a 3-0 Champions League qualifying round win over Fenerbahçe that "the transfer window starts now."

In fact, it ends in 10 days, but the Gallic miser is apparently to get into the spirit by making a colossal double offer for Madrid's Karim Benzema and Ángel di María, leaving Real a little light in attack. Whether Florentino Pérez would let either leave this close to September 2 is open to question; unless he has someone else in mind already. Bale has been the apple of his eye for some time - José Mourinho recently claimed he had made a pass at the player when coach of Real - but the loss of Benzema would require Pérez to get his teeth into the market again. Luis Suárez is far from happy at Liverpool; the Bernabéu will be smitten if this ménage à trois comes off.