GARETH Bale has given the clearest indication yet that he sees his future beyond White Hart Lane, most likely in Spain, after saying that he will "look seriously" at attractive offers from overseas.
The timing of Bale’s remarks, which were made after Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-0 win against Fulham on Saturday, is especially significant given that Andre Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, appeared to hint last week that he could leave if a sufficient offer was forthcoming.
Villas-Boas did then release a further statement on Thursday, saying that the club had “no intention” of selling their star player.
Bale, though, has opened the door to a possible move. “It would be nice to experience other leagues and other cultures,” he said. “I’m not afraid to go abroad. If the time comes and a team that’s right comes in for me, then I’ll look at it seriously. I’ll see what happens.”
It is significant, though, that Bale signed a four-year deal during the summer that tied him to the club until 2016 on £75,000 a week.
That would place Tottenham in a strong negotiating position if Bale did decide to leave and serious offers were made by Barcelona or Real Madrid.
With Spurs having successfully held out for £30 million for Luka Modric last summer, it is difficult to imagine chairman Daniel Levy even considering any offers below £40 million for Bale. The Spanish clubs can take heart, however, from that fact that Levy has shown that he is willing to sell a star player if the money is right.
Tottenham’s progress this season will also have a significant bearing on the situation. Bale has always been very happy at Tottenham but said in April that he would have to talk about his situation if the club were not in the Champions League.
He was part of the team that reached the quarter-finals under Harry Redknapp in 2010 but this is Tottenham’s second successive season in the Europa League.
When Bale talks of the “right” team, it is difficult to imagine him considering any offers outside of Real Madrid or Barcelona. Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid manager, has been a long-standing admirer of Bale and Tottenham also have close ties with Madrid after announcing a “partnership” during the summer that was cryptically said to include “working together in respect of players”.
Modric also said last week that Bale “dreams” of winning the Champions League and claimed that Madrid, where he could play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, would be a “great” move for him.
Barcelona, though, cannot be discounted. Harry Redknapp, the former Tottenham manager, was forced earlier this year to deny claims from Spain that a £32 million deal was already in place for Bale and the player is regularly mentioned in the Catalan media. Bale described being linked to Barcelona as “flattering” earlier this year.
Bale, who has scored six goals in 14 Premier League appearances, also spoke on Saturday about his increasingly high profile. “I never really think about being famous. As soon as you realise how big you are, that’s when you lose yourself,” he said.
Bale’s declaration came after a mixed afternoon at Craven Cottage, with the Wales international suffering a hamstring injury that will probably keep him out of Thursday’s Europa League game against Panathinaikos and Sunday’s Premier League match at Everton.
“We just talk about the fact he is near a suspension,” Villas-Boas said. “If he has a reputation, it is a little bit unfair because these last two bookings have been unfairly given. It is very difficult to judge players at this pace. They are so quick and it’s not easy for the referees.”
Jermain Defoe, who scored twice at Fulham, described Bale’s absence over the next week as “a massive blow”. He said: “Because of the way he plays you can’t really replace a player like that, but at the same time I think someone else can come in.
“We’re lucky because we’ve got some great players that can come in, play out of position, adapt and do a job for the team. I think we will be OK.”
Sandro scored Tottenham’s first goal on Saturday before Defoe continued his outstanding form as the main central striker in Spurs’ 4-2-3-1 formation with a 13th and 14th goal of the season.
Defoe was previously managed at Tottenham by Martin Jol but the Fulham manager did not seem convinced by the way he has adapted his game. “If you look at the goals he scored, you could have scored them – he is a poacher,” Jol said.
By Jeremy Wilson, Telegraph.co.uk