Bernabeu side have leapfrogged bitter rivals in race to land the 22-year-old, who is rated in the £40m-plus bracket by Spurs, even though he is said to prefer a move to Camp Nou
By Salvatore Landolina & Wayne Veysey
With his concession that he would find it hard to resist a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid if either of the Spanish A-listers come calling, Gareth Bale did little to halt the rumour mill that surrounds his future plans.
A summer of upheaval is already on the cards for Tottenham, given the uncertainty over the futures of Harry Redknapp and Luka Modric.
To say goodbye to both would be unfortunate, although not unexpected. To also lose Bale, the club’s third prize asset, would inevitably destroy much of Redknapp’s excellent work over the last four seasons.
As first revealed by Goal.com last July, Barcelona regard Bale as a viable target for the forthcoming summer, and it is also understood that Real Madrid and, to a lesser extent, Manchester City are keen to offer the Welshman the left flank and a platform to hoover up trophies.
Asked about the interest of the two Spanish giants, Bale said: “If you said to any young player that you could play for Barcelona or Real would they turn it down? Probably not.
"It's a bit like Harry [Redknapp] and England, it's a once-in-a-lifetime dream. If a bid was accepted you would obviously have to seriously consider it.”
Privately, Bale is understood to gaze more longingly at Barcelona ahead of their bitter rivals because he “prefers their style of play”.
It is a two-way admiration. “The interest from Barcelona in Bale is genuine and very strong,” a source close to the Barcelona boardroom told Goal.com. “Barcelona have established contact with Bale's agent and they have spoken several times about Bale moving to Barcelona.”
Pep Guardiola is believed to have prioritised the signing of a left sided wing-back in conversations with president Sandro Rosell. Top brass at Camp Nou regard Bale as a direct replacement for ths stricken Eric Abidal even though the Welshman now regards himself almost exclusively as an attacking player.
Not that Spurs, who dug in their heels so deep when Chelsea tried to prise away Modric last summer, will give up Bale’s registration easily.
The Londoners, in pole position to reclaim a Champions League place this season, have viewed Bale as a £50million asset ever since his right to belong in a small elite was confirmed by his astonishing Champions League performances home and away against Italian giants Inter in the autumn of 2010.
Spurs have indicated to interested parties that it would take offers beyond £40m to even bring them to the negotiating table should Bale push for a move but even that figure is likely to prove beyond the means of the European champions.
“Barcelona feel that £40m is madness,” the source added. “Rosell wants Bale and would love to see him at Camp Nou but they simply cannot afford him. The interest is strong but the club cannot take it further based on the price as things stand."
Although Spurs are relatively sanguine about the future of a player who is tied to the club until the summer of 2015, they know that his value will begin to depreciate from next season if he does not extend his deal.
Bale signed what is believed to be the most lucrative contract in the club’s history 12 months ago but the Welshman’s camp do not see the attacking midfielder staying at White Hart Lane much beyond his early 20s.
“Whatever happens Gareth will not sign another Tottenham contract,” said one source well acquainted with the player’s situation.
Real Madrid are widely regarded to be favourites to sign the 2011 PFA player of the year, who has added greater variety and cutting to his game in a season in which he has scored 14 goals for club and country.
Although Barcelona have shown the greater interest in the player up to now, Jose Mourinho tried very hard to sign Bale for Real in the summer of 2010 after his White Hart Lane breakthrough in the second half of 2009/10.
A number of senior Spurs figures expect the Bernabeu to be the player’s next port of call. The commercial riches of Real mean they are better placed than any club to satisfy Uefa’s new financial fair play regulations and continue hunting the ‘Galactico’ signings that have been their trademark for the last decade.
Nevertheless, Spurs sources are confident that Bale will be a Tottenham player at the start of the 2012-13 season if they clinch a top-four finish even if, as expected, Redknapp takes residence in the Wembley dugout.
A move abroad this summer is likely to be 12 months too early for Bale, who turns 23 in July and is regarded as bashful by nature and fond of his home comforts.
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