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How Did Tottenham Hotspur Star Gareth Bale Get So Expensive?

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COMMENTARY | Before getting into what the player in question may or may not be worth, there is one thing that first must be pointed out: The only thing we know for sure about Gareth Bale as of the afternoon of August 20, 2013, is that nothing's for sure.

Bale's transfer fee, one that's never been publicly confirmed by Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy or manager Andre Villas-Boas, has, according to multiple press outlets from around the world, risen from around £40m last summer to somewhere in the neighborhood of £85-93m, depending on which websites and newspapers you believe. That's quite an astronomical jump, even when talking about a guy who was arguably the top player in the Premier League last season.

How did Bale become the most pricey footballer in world history?

It's actually easier to explain that one might imagine.

How did Gareth Bale get so expensive: He's pretty good

Whether or not Bale deserves to be mentioned along with names such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi depends on personal opinion and not much more. Any and all snark and cynicism aside, Bale's overall talent is undeniable. He is a two-time winner of the PFA Player of the Year Award. He netted 26 goals across all competitions last season. Bale swept the Player of the Year awards this past spring. Some may refuse to see it, but Bale's reputation as being one of the world's top stars goes beyond something that was created by the media.

It was this past February when Bale was, for one month, the best player on the planet. He netted game-winners against West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United, Lyon and West Ham United, the last of which was my pick for goal of the season. One can only wonder what he would have achieved from March through May had an ankle injury not slowed him down in the spring.

How did Gareth Bale get so expensive: "Panic buy" and pride

It's hardly a controversial opinion to state that La Liga is a two-club league in which all other franchises fall behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. Real Madrid finished second to Barca in the league table, they were eliminated from Champions League in the semifinal round by Borussia Dortmund, and they lost to Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey Final. That's simply not good enough for what is currently the world's most valuable club.

It's very likely that Real would still be in for Bale had they won one of the three competitions listed in the prior paragraph. That they didn't, however, makes signing the Welsh wonder no matter what the price just that much more important for the Spanish giants. Add in the fact that Real Madrid doesn't take "no" for an answer in these scenarios, and you've got a recipe for a historic buy that, on paper, doesn't make a whole lot of financial sense.

How did Gareth Bale get so expensive: He's leaving

I am not Ronaldo's agent nor am I his therapist, so I can't speak on those rumors about his not loving life at the Bernabeu that first popped up last holiday season. I've had conversations with multiple people who are much smarter than am I regarding that very subject over the past eight months, however, and every one of them agreed that Ronaldo's heart remains at Manchester United, and that is where he would like to finish up his European career before potentially making a move to Major League Soccer several years down the road on a deal that would make the chiseled jaw of David Beckham hit the floor.

Bale turned 24 years old this past July. His best football on Tuesday and Wednesday nights is in front of him. Ronaldo will be 29 years old come February 2014. Even if Ronaldo does remain at Real through 2015, logic indicates that he has a few, maybe a handful, of elite years left before time and inevitability slow him down.

What's Gareth Bale worth? Exactly what every professional athlete in the world is worth, and that's whatever a team will pay for him and not a penny less. It will be years before we know the ultimate winner of this summer's most dramatic transfer saga. One thing you can be sure of, though, is that Bale will ultimately prove his worth to either Spurs or to Real Madrid.

Orr maybe to both.

For more: Bale sweeps awards.

Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.

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