Tottenham have been warned that Real Madrid have the desire and financial firepower to take Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu this summer.
Bale's starring performance in the 3-2 win against West Ham on Monday night has further cemented his status among Europe's very best players, with Real, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester City all now closely monitoring his future.
Ramon Calderon, the former president of Real Madrid who retains links with the club, said yesterday that the vast resources available at the Bernabeu will enable them to agree a deal.
"It's true we have spent a lot of money in the last three or four years, but I think we are in a position to pay the money they are going to ask for," Calderon said.
"There is always a limit, but Real Madrid is in a very healthy situation, economically speaking, so it would be in the position to sign him."
Madrid announced what they called a "collaboration agreement" with Tottenham following the purchase of Luka Modric last season and have already asked to be informed if Bale does become available for transfer.
Tottenham would not listen to offers below £50m, with friends of the Wales winger predicting that his long-term future will still be defined by Spurs' ability to qualify for the Champions League and compete for silverware.
Calderon, who constructed the world-record £80m deal that took Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real, accepts that Bale would not come cheap.
"He is one of those players you would always like to have in your team. I'm sure it will be a high amount of money because he is a fantastic player. A lot of clubs would like to have him," said Calderon, who was replaced as president in 2009 by Florentino Perez.
Real's determination to buy Bale this summer is likely to be heavily influenced by the future of Ronaldo, who will hold contract talks in May.
Despite Ronaldo having just two years left to run on his contract at the Bernabeu, Real have yet to offer the former United player a new deal or begin negotiations with the 28-year-old's advisers.
Perez is due to stand for re-election as president later this year and, as well as needing to resolve the managerial uncertainty at the club, he will want to recruit a box-office signing to ensure he is given another four-year term. Bale is known in Spain as the 'left-footed Ronaldo'.
Reports in Madrid have also suggested that Perez would be prepared to sell Ronaldo to fund a summer spending spree on Bale, Neymar, David Silva and Malaga winger Isco. With Ronaldo having claimed earlier this season that he was unhappy at Real, speculation has grown that the Portuguese superstar is prepared to leave the club this summer or run down his contract to depart as a free agent in 2015.
It has also emerged that Ronaldo told holidaymakers in the Dominican Republic in December that he misses England and is keen to play in the Premier League again, raising the possibility, albeit unlikely, of a return to Manchester with United or City.
Paris Saint-Germain, backed by the Qatari royal family, will also be major players in this summer's transfer window. Calderon also said yesterday that he expected Jose Mourinho to move from Madrid to Paris this summer.
Tottenham remain adamant that they have no interest in selling Bale and are on course to qualify for the Champions League for the second time in four years.
Bale has previously said that he would be open to playing abroad at some stage in his career but did extend his Tottenham contract last summer until 2016. "It won't be about money," said a friend. "If Tottenham do get into the Champions League and then show they can compete with the Manchester clubs, that is what will be important to him."
Madrid expressed an interest in Bale when they signed Modric last summer and have now requested that they be given the opportunity to match
any rival bids. Bale and his advisers, however, must decide whether his development would be risked by moving abroad at such an early stage in his career.
George Burley, who nurtured Bale at Southampton, has warned that he must be careful to make the right move. "If you leave too early and go to a big club you can take a backwards step," he said.
Bale's progress at Spurs has certainly been meteoric and, according to Scott Parker, his winning goal against West Ham will have dealt Arsenal a psychological blow in the race for Champions League football.
"I've been in that position where you're watching the scores come up and it goes 'last-minute goal' at wherever and you're praying it's the other team," said Parker. "It is deflating as a player on the opposite end, and I'm sure the Arsenal players are like that."
Tottenham can move seven points clear of Arsenal on Sunday when the two clubs meet at White Hart Lane in the final north London derby of the season, and Parker says that the players will be motivated by losing a 10-point lead over their rivals last season.
"What happened last year drives us," he said. "We've worked really hard this season to get where we've got, and we can't afford to fall off it. "I think we've got players in our squad that Arsenal would want any day of the week."
Of Bale, Parker added: "Words can't really describe how well he's playing at the moment." (© Daily Telegraph, London)