COMMENTARY | Gareth Bale was nervous on day one of his Real Madrid career.
He admitted as much while speaking with reporters after his unveiling at the Bernabeu. Bale flashed a timid smile throughout the day's events, he struggled to perform kick-ups on the famous pitch, and his voice broke just a bit while speaking Spanish to thousands upon thousands of his new fan base.
There are many reasons, roughly 86 million, why Bale would have at least some jitters after completing his much-anticipated move from Tottenham Hotspur to the Spanish giants. He may have been willing to join Real for "a penny," but he cost quite a bit more than that -- roughly 100 million euros more -- and now he is going to have to pay that money back with his play on the pitch.
"If he (Bale) does not play well then certainly people will say that they have paid a lot of money and that he is not worth it," the Ronaldo who used to play for Real told reporters when asked about the historic transfer.
For Spurs, this story ended once manager Andre Villas-Boas told reporters following the team's 1-0 loss to rival Arsenal that Bale was set to train with Real Madrid. Tottenham had already moved on from Bale, using whatever money they were going to get from the deal in order to acquire seven players. Chairman Daniel Levy had, at some point after the middle of July, accepted that Bale already had one foot in Spain. He parted with a star in the best possible way: by bringing in an influx of talent that would overshadow the fact that Tottenham's one-man team from a season ago wouldn't be there to save Spurs in 2013-14.
It will be revisionist history to look back at all Spurs have done since July as being "bad business" even if they don't earn Champions League football come May. They received a boatload of money, probably a little too much money, for one player, and Tottenham in turn reinvested via multiple solid buys. Paulinho was coveted by multiple Champions League clubs, and Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen will both be worth at least double of what Spurs paid for them if they reach their full potentials. Who out there isn't calling the club the big winners of the transfer window?
It's not that simple for Bale. Real Madrid winning the league and even Champions League won't justify the Bale buy unless he is, at worst, the second-most important player for the club. Being PFA Player of the Year while playing half of your matches at White Hart Lane is one thing. Being named one of world football's three best players while routinely performing in front of 80,000 screaming fans is another.
What's going to happen the first time Ronaldo gets sad (and, yes, it's going to happen) at some point over the next year? What will Bale's reaction be to the reaction of the Spanish media that first time he goes to ground a little too easily? How will he cope if/when sections of fans turn on him for not breaking goal records?
Bale was a hero at Tottenham, so beloved that members of the NY Spurs supporters group sang one final time in his honor at O'Casey's in Manhattan upon learning that he had officially joined Real Madrid an hour after watching their beloved side lose to the Gunners. Twenty-six goals across all competitions was incredible last season. He'll have to go beyond that to prove that he was worth more than the price of a single Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
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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