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Dirty Tackle

Here’s a Madrid policeman who has no idea who Gareth Bale is

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

Outside of Gareth Bale's unveiling at the Bernabeu on transfer deadline day, Sky Sports tried to gauge excitement outside the stadium after months of high-profile negotiations. When they asked one Madrid cop how he felt about Bale's arrival, the response they got was "What is this?" When his name was repeated, the officer (who was eager to get back to work) said, "Ah, the new player? I don't know him."

Granted, not every person follows football and even the most famous people in the world are completely unknown to large swathes of the world's population, but this wasn't the signing of a journeyman squad player. This might be the most expensive signing ever. And the interview was being conducted right outside the stadium after months of daily press coverage.

Inside that stadium, a crowd about half as large as the one that greeted Cristiano Ronaldo when he became the new world record signing in 2009 watched the generally quiet, unassuming Bale nervously attempt keep-ups while donning Real Madrid's iconic kit for the first time.

Though his talent is undeniable, Bale hasn't achieved as much as other players who have commanded a record transfer in recent history. Ronaldo had already won three Premier League titles and the Champions League with Man United, Kaka was a Ballon d'Or winner, as was Zidane, and Luis Figo won it five months after his controversial record move from Barca to Real Madrid. These were all players who were proven to be bankable, thus partially justifying the colossal investment made in them.

From a commercial standpoint, Bale's value is a bit more speculative. He won both the PFA Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards last season, but he wasn't even among the Premier League's top 10 in shirts sold. He has the talent to be an international superstar, but he hasn't yet won the trophies or developed the easily discernible personality (or a caricature of one) that inspires those extra shirt sales and individual support.

Just because one random cop doesn't know his name and the Bernabeu was only half full for his unveiling doesn't mean Bale won't eventually prove his worth on all fronts. But for better or worse, the scrutiny and attention given to Bale will only increase from here.

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