GARETH BALE became the most expensive player in football history last night and immediately described his €100m (£86m) move from Tottenham to Real Madrid as "a dream come true".
After a month of intense negotiations, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy finally signed off on a straight cash deal with Madrid that surpasses the previous transfer record of £80m that was spent on bringing Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernabeu from Manchester United.
"I have had six very happy years at Tottenham, but it's the right time to say goodbye," said Bale.
"We've had some special times over the years and I've loved every minute of it. I am not sure there is ever a good time to leave a club where I felt settled and was playing the best football of my career. Many players talk of their desire to join the club of their boyhood dreams, but I can honestly say this is my dream come true."
Bale spent six years at Tottenham after being signed from Southampton for £6m.
Southampton will receive £2m as a result of the world-record Bale deal from the FIFA solidarity payment that relates to the development of players. They would have received around £10m had a sell-on clause not been subsequently bought out by Spurs.
The Bale deal is likely to have a domino affect on the European transfer market, with Kaka expected to rejoin AC Milan and Arsenal preparing a dramatic £80m spending spree in the final hours of the transfer window to sign Real pair Angel di Maria and Mesut Ozil and Schalke's Julian Draxler.
A bid is also expected for Real's Karim Benzema but, with the France striker keen to stay at the Bernabeu, Di Maria and Draxler have emerged as the most realistic targets.
Meanwhile, Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas insisted that the club should not be anxious about embarking on the post-Bale era although a sense of unease was still descending on the club last night after a potentially-serious ankle injury to one of his new signings, Etienne Capoue.
The French midfielder was stretchered off in agony late in yesterday's game. (© Daily Telegraph, London)