How much is one trophy worth?
Ask the British press, and they'll tell you Gareth Bale cost €100 million.
The Spanish media maintains that it cost €91 million for Bale to swim away from the rainy winters of London for the sunny summers of Spain. Regardless of which report one chooses to believe, the Welshman's transfer fee, which did not include the player's wages, was absolutely impossible to explain and well past the point of madness.
In dollars, the difference was about $10 million: Did Bale cost a $125 million or $135 million? No matter, the figure was mind-boggling.
If the Spaniards were correct, Bale's teammate – the low-key and easy to miss figure of Cristiano Ronaldo – would retain his title as the most expensive player in the history of the sport at €94 million ($128 million).
Before Bale, Ronaldo caused a similar stir and sparked the same dialogue of disbelief. There was genuine confusion when considering the sums of money being paid for a single player in a team sport. Real Madrid has a habit of that, of course, as the Spanish giants have broken the past five world transfer records.
Sure, Ronaldo may legitimately make the argument for having the greatest combination of talent and work ethic in the history of the sport, but explaining the unbelievable price tag of $128 million for one player was darn near impossible at the time.
Despite Ronaldo's consistent greatness and landmark achievements in the iconic white shirt of Real Madrid, truthfully, one still struggles to make sense of the ridiculous sum that was paid for the Portuguese superstar.
To his credit, Ronaldo has performed and already broken the record for most goals in a single Champions League season, 16, this campaign. Entering the Champions League final, he is third all-time on the list for most goals in the history of Europe's elite club competition – only five goals back of Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez and one back of Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
Domestically, the Portuguese superstar finished as top scorer in Spain with 31 goals this season, which was good enough to share European Golden Boot honors with Liverpool's Luis Suarez. Since arriving at Real Madrid from Manchester United, Ronaldo has scored an incredible 252 goals in 246 matches.
Still, justifying Ronaldo's price tag would be much easier if he was able to bring a record 10th European Cup to Real Madrid on Saturday.
The only justification ever offered for these unreasonable and exorbitant sums Real Madrid regularly paid out was "la decima." Real Madrid's dream of hoisting a fabled 10th European Cup – presently referred to as the Champions League – has become an obsession in the Spanish capital over the past decade.
When Madrid paid out a then-record €65 for Kaka to partner the Brazilian alongside Ronaldo, it was this dream of reaching la decima that was writing the checks. That partnership ultimately failed, and Madrid lost big on that investment. The Brazilian playmaker eventually returned to AC Milan on a free transfer.
However, with a win in Lisbon on Saturday, Madrid can finally achieve the dream and hold more European Cups than Barcelona and Bayern Munich combined. The impressive quality and consistent strength of Real Madrid's squad makes it easy to miss that the team constantly linked with spending monopoly money has not won the Champions League since 2002.
For 12 agonizing years, Real Madrid desperately tried anything and everything to get that 10th trophy. Even bringing in the "Special One," Jose Mourinho, failed to capture the illusive crown.
Real Madrid spent hundreds of millions of euros to build the current incarnation of Los Blancos. Since the days of radio, the acronym "BBC" was automatically associated with the British Broadcasting Company. On Saturday, "BBC" will be short for Bale, Benzema and Cristiano – Madrid's attacking trident.
French forward Karim Benzema served as the third prong in Real Madrid's speedy, sleek and skillful attack, and the combination of goalscorers may one day be reflected on as the most potent front three in history. By some distance, it is already the most expensive attack in the history of world football.
Considered a bargain by the standards set by his fellow attackers, Benzema only cost Madrid about €40 million.
Worth mentioning at this point, the entire Atletico Madrid team – the side that won the Spanish league and faces Real Madrid in Saturday's Champions League final – cost €36 million in transfer fees. It does not take a financial wizard to explain why Real Madrid is the favorite in Lisbon, and it does not take a psychology expert to explain why Atletico Madrid is the underdog's hope.
Anything short of a win on Saturday would be a waste of money and a colossal failure for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid's "BBC" cost a total of €234 million ($320 million) – not including wages paid to the players. Adding up the 18 current first-team players that came into the squad via paid transfers, Real Madrid paid roughly €540 million ($740 million) in transfer fees alone to buy a chance at winning la decima, and that figure does not include players' salaries.
If Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema finally bring home la decima on Saturday, though, Real Madrid will amazingly justify the spending and believe the product on the pitch and trophy in the cabinet were worth every penny.
Shahan Ahmed is a contributor in Yahoo! Sports and has covered the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, and UEFA Champions League for the past four seasons. Shahan was previously Direct of European Football and Chief Editor at AccuScore. Care to discuss? Contact Shahan on Twitter: @ShahanLA
- Sports & Recreation
- Real Madrid
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Gareth Bale