Sport Soccer

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Gloves are off as Bale saga gets personal

Villas-Boas calls on Spurs to fine stay-away star and insists they will sell only when ready

Ben Rumsby and John Percy

Andre Villas-Boas has criticised Gareth Bale's conduct during his protracted transfer to Real Madrid and urged Tottenham Hotpsur to fine the player for failing to return to the club this week.

Bale's world-record £86m move to Madrid descended into acrimony yesterday as Tottenham head coach Villas-Boas pushed for the Welshman to be punished for his absence.

It is understood that Bale and those around him are contemptuous of the prospect of a club fine, which they would refuse to pay.

Villas-Boas said that Bale's move to Real Madrid may not finally be completed until the weekend but Tottenham yesterday continued to spend the money they will receive, agreeing the signing of Roma's Argentine forward Erik Lamela for an initial £26m – rising to £30m – and working on a deal for Ajax playmaker Cristian Eriksen, for whom they have lodged a £6.9m bid.

It is understood that once both signings are sealed, Bale will be sold. Villas-Boas' excitement at further signings was tempered by his frustration over Bale's behaviour.

He said that Tottenham executives would decide on whether Bale is fined, but made his own position clear. The Spurs head coach left little doubt what he thought about his authority being seen to be undermined so publicly, dubbing it a "statement from the player" and saying: "I don't think it's the correct behaviour." He added: "It's up to the club now to decide if it's a fineable offence."

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The comments further alienated Bale, said to be stunned by what he saw as another attempt by Spurs to spoil his excitement at joining a club Villas-Boas acknowledged was the "biggest" in the world as well as becoming the most expensive player in history.

The 24-year-old was thought to be upset at being ordered back to training, having been told by the club to say his goodbyes last week when a move to Real had looked like being completed last weekend.


He was even beginning to fear yesterday that Levy could drag out one of the summer's longest transfer sagas to the bitter end, preventing him making his debut against Atletico Madrid on Sunday just 24 hours before the window closes, although Real are optimistic of presenting him to their fans tomorrow .

Bale feels that Levy had already broken his word on that front, despite interest from other clubs – thought to be Manchester United and Paris St-Germain – in addition to Spurs' problems signing adequate replacements. The first of those should be Lamela, who was set to undergo a medical today.

Villas-Boas said: "Our idea is to be stronger than the year before. If we conclude certain targets that we are looking for, we can be that team.

"If we conclude other targets, maybe we are not that team."

But those targets will not include Chelsea star Juan Mata, according to the man who brought him to Stamford Bridge and made a cheeky attempt to sign him after being gazumped by his old club for Willian.

"First, Chelsea wouldn't sell to Tottenham in any way or form, as they think that we are title contenders," said Villas-Boas, days after Spurs accused Chelsea of buying Willian partly to stymie them.

"Mata is a great player – player of the season last season – a very important player for Chelsea. They're just not going to strengthen another team that, in their opinion, are rivals for the title."

Villas-Boas insisted that Bale's departure was not dependent on such arrivals – indeed, it appears it could be down to the precise details of how the transfer fee is paid – but admitted it could "go to the last days".

"It could happen very, very soon. It might not happen so soon," he said, insisting he bore no ill feeling towards a player he was desperate to keep.

"If it happens, we wish him all the best. What he left here is great memories. What's happening is a dream move for him.

"This could have happened in a different way but, in the end, there will be a three-way agreement for the player to go and Tottenham will accept, most likely, the biggest transfer in world football. If Tottenham accept it and everything goes all right, it will be end of story."

Spurs are thought to be angry at Real's conduct over the transfer, which has included erecting a stage to present Bale before the move has been finalised and offering shirts for sale with the player's name on.

"They can do whatever they want. Whether it's responsible or irresponsible, I don't care," said Villas-Boas, ahead of thir Europa League second leg play-off against Dinamo Tbilisi. Although Bale won't be missed tonight, given their 5-0 first-leg advantage.

The Spurs boss denied "dragging out" the deal, adding: "You wouldn't expect the biggest transfer in world football to happen easily. Whenever they get to an agreement, end of story."

Joining Real would cap a meteoric rise for a player Tottenham almost sold for £3m four years ago, so badly did he begin life at White Hart Lane.

Villas-Boas said: "He has gone from left-back to left-wing to second striker to striker, all because of his unbelievable talent. This can only happen when players have great knowledge of the game. He has a natural talent to do different things to maximum potential.

"It's down to his talent, and in the end he gains access to a transfer to Real Madrid, which in the end probably can happen." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Tottenham Hotspur v Dinamo Tbilisi,

Live, ITV 4, 8.05

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