El Clasico, the serial battle for Spanish supremacy between Real Madrid and Barcelona is the biggest event in European football besides the Champions League final. There is no rivalry in Europe that has or ever will captivate the world the way this has and will continue to do. People who don’t even watch football will pack into a bar or hang out with their football fan-boy friends to catch one of these matches. These days there is extra importance in Spain for El Clasico because La Liga is a two horse race and nothing will change that for a long time.
This summer transfer window will likely be one of the most intriguing we’ve had for quite a few years. Before financial fair play well and truly kicks in, some clubs will be looking to spend some silly money and these two clubs will be front and centre. What one does directly influences the other and many a time they have gone after the same players further fueling the rivalry.
Most recently Real Madrid and Barcelona did battle over young Brazilian “superstar” Neymar. We all knew that Barcelona would get him but Real Madrid were determined to put in an effort to steal the deal. This signing means a great deal to La Liga and to the Clasico as a whole. Not only has it underlined Barcelona’s transfer policy but it will ignite Madrid into responding or risk being left behind.
Barcelona have been accused of being overly reliant on Lionel Messi for two seasons now. You might see it as a weird thing to say considering the supreme quality of Xavi and Iniesta. But lets look at the facts. It is true that when Messi went missing in Milan, Barcelona got beaten 2-0. The Blaugruna had to bring him on while injured to save them from being knocked out by Paris Saint Germain. Surely in big games such as these someone else needs to have the ability to grab the bull by the horns if Messi isn’t capable of doing so. Neymar has the skills, pace and eye for a beautiful goal to take some of the load off Messi and that’s exactly why his transfer has been fast tracked. In many ways he is quite similar to Messi and Barcelona will definitely look to use that to their advantage. Whether or not he has the mental toughness to handle the pressure is another thing altogether.
From a marketing standpoint this should be a goldmine for Barcelona. Sportspro stated that Neymar was the most marketable footballer last year. Though I don’t agree with that, Neymar’s marketability will sky rocket in the next few years. Currently we are watching him at the Confederations Cup and we expect him to trick and dazzle his way past defenders in La Liga and the Champions league next season. Ultimately, he will be Brazil’s leading hope on home soil in next year’s World Cup, where the whole world will be soaking in the Neymar brand. This man will be in our faces for a very long time and Madrid just can’t stand it.
Plain Behind the scenes all is not well at the Bernabeu. They need to hire a new manager and what Zidane’s role will be no one knows. On the playing side they will need to add some reliability, flair and marketing firepower of their own. First and foremost they need to make sure that Cristiano Ronaldo extends his contract. Rumour has it the Portuguese superstar is in advanced negotiations over a five-year contract that will be the most lucrative in the history of football; totalling around €155 million over five years, with the Portuguese forward set to earn €15m annually after tax.
Like Barcelona, Madrid have become over reliant on their superstar Ronaldo. They need to bring in another superstar or Galactico as the Madridistas call them to take some of the scoring load off the talented winger. There seems to be only one player who can solve this problem and according to Madrid president Florentino Perez he was “made to play” for the club : that player is Gareth Bale.
Like the Neymar-Messi combination, if Madrid can pull off this transfer they would have two very similar powerhouse attackers on either wing. It would be incredibly scary for the weak defense of their Catalan rivals. Gareth Bale brings speed, power, a good shot and a never say die attitude to Madrid. Bale is proven in the English Premier League, he’s played against some of the best defenders and made them look ordinary, just ask Rio Ferdinand. His play aside, Bale’s stock has risen and he’s become incredibly marketable and Bale knows this. He has trademarked his heart celebration and will make a fortune as a result. Its obvious that if Madrid can pull this off, Bale shirts will fly off the shelves for years to come.
There is a problem however, and that problem is money. A few months ago the fee being reported for Bale’s transfer was £60 million. As of last week we heard that £85 million would persuade Daniel Levy to let his prized asset leave Spurs. With financial fair play one season away, does it make sense to pay this much money for Gareth Bale? Is he better than Ronaldo at the same age? Can he handle playing in Spain? Considering how much Barcelona paid for Neymar we could ask the same question of him because that is also a major gamble. In Barca’s favor, there is a big difference between £50 million pounds and £85 million pounds and I’m not sure that Bale is worth that much more than Neymar. Perhaps we’re not sure if Neymar is worth £50 million to begin with.
Many think Madrid should look for cheaper options who can contribute with the same, if not better output. Uruguay’s Luis Suarez is chomping at the bit to move to Madrid. He’s been talking about it to anyone within ear shot. Because Suarez recently signed a new contract he will be expensive with a fee ranging between £50 and £60 million. That gives Real money to put towards another player who can play on the wing like Isco. This would allow Suarez to take the central striker role that Benzema and Higuain have failed to convince in. However, with Suarez comes controversy and Madrid will be wary of that especially from a marketing standpoint.
Bale is a brilliant player but there will be a surplus of questions surrounding this move. Can he handle the pressure of a world record transfer fee over his head? Can he adapt to Spanish culture when not too many brits have done that very well. Can he in fact mesh with Ronaldo? For Real is this the best way to stick one to Barcelona? We’ll have to wait and see if Real pull the trigger on what could be the gamble of the century.
Even with all the questions that will be posed to Bale he is an outstanding talent and in my opinion, Madrid can’t go wrong either way. Barcelona have fired the opening salvo in the Clasico by signing Neymar. We will have to wait and see what Madrid come up with in retaliation but I suspect they will move heaven and earth to get Bale even though there might be safer and maybe wiser options.
Since when does Real go looking for the safer option? If they did, they wouldn’t be any fun. Whatever Madrid choose to do, we can’t wait for the next chapter of El Clasico