By Wayne Veysey
The Tottenham midfielder has been identified as principal target by the European champions, who are prepared to shatter the transfer record for a British player.
Barcelona have already made the first steps to capture Bale by enquiring about his interest in a move to the continent and are confident they can fight off interest from Inter and Real Madrid in a player whose reputation across Europe was established following his explosive performances in last season’s Champions League.
Spurs had prepared themselves for sustained interest in Bale, who turns 22 next week, this summer but that has not really materialised after his season fizzled out following a series of injuries in the second half of the campaign.
Goal.com understands that Bale will now stay at White Hart Lane for another season but Spurs top brass recognise that it will be difficult to fight off interest in their prize asset next summer if he maintains his progress in the coming months.
The Welshman won the PFA player of the year award last season but struggled to recover from a back injury and then his campaign ended early after he ruptured ankle ligaments following a Charlie Adam tackle.
Bale has returned to training this week but it is believed that the world’s elite clubs are waiting to see how he recovers from the injury before taking the plunge on a player who made Europe sit up and take notice with some outstanding performances on the club game’s biggest stage.
Rocket man | Bale's market value has shot up following his Champions League displays
There has also been interest in Bale from Tottenham’s Premier League rivals, although they have other priorities in the current transfer window.
“Chelsea and Manchester City are not suitors at the moment, Manchester United flirted with him but have not gone for him and he is out of Arsenal and Liverpool’s price range,” an insider told Goal.com. “Most of the interest in Gareth is from the continent but he is not ready to go abroad yet and is happy to stay at Tottenham for another season.”
Spurs, who have stood firm in the face of sustained interest from Chelsea and others in Luka Modric this summer, will be under similar pressure to hold on to Bale in 12 months’ time.
The club will be confident of extracting a fee close to €50m if his reputation as one of the most sought-after players in world football continues to grow. Bale signed an improved contract tying him to Spurs until 2015 in March only 10 months after agreeing a previous deal.
Barcelona have let it be known that they will be closely monitoring Bale’s performances next season and are willing to pay more than the €40m transfer record for a British player, the sum Liverpool paid Newcastle United for Andy Carroll on the last day of the January window.Camp Nou chiefs regard converted full-back Bale, who principally plays on the left side of midfield for Spurs, as a marauding wing-back in the style of Daniel Alves.
The remarkable recovery of Eric Abidal from a liver tumour at the end of last season has made Bale’s capture less of a priority but the Frenchman is 32 in September and his deputy Maxwell is 29 and is rumoured to be leaving the club.