Real Madrid could pay record fee for Gareth Bale

Martin Rogers

Gareth Bale could officially become the most expensive player in soccer history this week if Real Madrid ends a summer of speculation by agreeing to a record deal for the Welsh winger, according to sources connected with the negotiations.

The Spanish club is expected to pay around $134 million in cash to Tottenham Hotspur, Bale's English Premier League team, breaking the $124.6 million transfer fee they spent on Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.

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Bale has been on Madrid's wanted list for months but Tottenham's stance of holding out for the maximum amount delayed the transfer past the start of the new European season, which held its second round of matches this weekend.

The 24-year-old emerged as a legitimate international star over the past two seasons, with his age, physical power and outrageous skill set positioning him as Madrid's most sought-after target.

He will likely never play in a World Cup due to the weakness of the Wales national team, but Real hopes it is buying a player that will greatly enhance its push for the Spanish La Liga title as well as the Champions League crown.

As matters dragged on, Tottenham's hardball bargaining stance raised the real possibility that the switch may not take place at all. Discussions took place in a variety of venues including London, Madrid and even Miami, involving senior figures from both clubs and Bale's agent, Jonathan Barnett.

Bale could be unveiled at a press conference likely on Tuesday, having spent the last few days holed up in his agent's apartment in Marbella, according to London's Daily Telegraph, which along with the Daily Mail was the first to report the conclusion of discussions.

If the contract is finalized, Bale is expected to receive a six-year contract worth around $15 million a year. Tottenham has offered Real a series of discounts if they make early repayments on their scheduled plan of three-staged deposits.

Bale was happy to stay at Tottenham until the middle part of the off-season, but once the reality of the opportunity to play for one of the world's biggest clubs sank in, he informed the London club of his wish to leave.

The Spanish press has reported that a special stage has already been erected at Bernabeu Stadium where Bale could be formally unveiled as a Madrid player on Tuesday.

After being soundly beaten in the Champions League semifinals, finishing 15 points behind Barcelona in the La Liga title race, then seeing Barca secure the signature of Brazilian wunderkind Neymar, Madrid had to react.

It did so in the only way it knows how: by spending money.

In the early 2000s Real began its habit of trying to buy the best available player in the world each summer, snagging the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham. That approach is no longer an annual affair, but Madrid still can flex financial muscle harder than anyone.

There will naturally be big expectations for Bale, though his temperament seems strong enough to give him a chance of success at one of the toughest clubs of all. A level-headed character, he has shown maturity at each stage of his career, even dating back to when he was made the captain of Wales' Under-21 team at the age of just 16.

Spain would provide new and different challenges, much of which may be decided by how quickly he builds a playing relationship with Ronaldo, who would move to a more central attacking role.

Even among a roster stacked with such superstars though, there will be no averting the glare of the spotlight for Bale. Such is the price that comes with the price tag, such is the focus that accompanies the man deemed soccer's most valuable.

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