By Matt Scott
In what appears to be the opening shot across the bows in one of the summer’s biggest transfer stories, El Mundo Deportivo, the Barcelona-based daily sports newspaper, has reported that Barça have targeted Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Gareth Bale though are not willing to pay the £36 million (€45m) valuation put on the player by his club.
Spurs declined to comment on the report but Bale, who is under contract at White Hart Lane until 2015, is widely understood not to be for sale. The player’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, yesterday responded to the claims by telling the Daily Telegraph: “It’d be a lot more than that. Gareth’s very happy at Tottenham, come what may.”
Describing the supposed fee as “elevated”, El Mundo’s apparently briefed article recognises how the price puts Bale out of Barcelona’s reach. The newspaper instead talked of Bale having to agitate for a move to make it happen.
“[Barcelona] are confident that Bale will become involved in the negotiation, following the examples of Mascherano in 2010 in getting out of Liverpool, and Cesc Fábregas, in 2011 in leaving Arsenal.
“That way opens through pressuring the club, making clear the [player’s] firm decision of signing for Barça.
“That could reduce the transfer fee, or equally [he could] sacrifice part of the wages, so Barcelona could meet the amount demanded by Tottenham.”
Neither Barnett nor Spurs expect Bale to do that, even though Tottenham’s participation in the Champions League next season hangs on Chelsea’s result in tonight’s final in Munich.
The Champions League was the competition where Bale rose to international prominence with a hat-trick against Internazionale two seasons ago.
If Tottenham are denied entry to next season’s competition it would intensify Barcelona’s efforts to recruit him.
Indeed El Mundo claimed he would find it “inconceivable not to play in the Champions League next season.”
The Daily Telegraph exclusively revealed last month that Bale had been made a transfer priority by Barcelona’s board. At the time the final decision on the transfer rested with the manager, Pep Guardiola.
However in the intervening weeks Guardiola has quit the Camp Nou and it appears his successor, Francesc Vilanova, has approved the approach for Bale.