At the end of the 2012/13 Premier League season, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy knew he had a monumental, almost impossible, task to keep Gareth Bale at White Hart Lane.
The Welshman had just completed a mesmerising season for The Lilywhites, scoring 21 goals in 33 league games, scooping the PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award, PFA Young player of the Year Award and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. The 24-year-old was the hottest property in world football, something that Levy was perfectly aware of.
Spanish giants Real Madrid had been knocking at Tottenham’s door throughout the summer of 2013, and it was only so long before Tottenham would have to give into Los Blancos’ demands. With just days remaining on the summer transfer window, Bale was sold to Real for a world record fee of £85m.
This was a transfer that was bound to happen, and it was destined to be a very pricey transfer, but the final fee meant that both parties came out very happy. Real Madrid had signed one of the best players in the world, who would go on and help them win four Champions League titles to date; Tottenham had been given a sizeable cash boost to help their summer spending.
Moreover, this was a victory for Levy, who threw down a gauntlet to Real, and proved that smaller clubs will not be pushed around by the giants of European football. It helped Tottenham status on the European stage as a team that will not be rinsed by other teams, just as any other big club in England would expect.
The negotiation process was infamously meticulous, boiled down to the minutiae regarding the currency that would be used in the transfer, as Levy ensured his side were getting the best deal possible.
The deal also contained a buy-back clause, whereby Tottenham can match any offer for the Welshman from another Premier League club. This is just another element which meant Tottenham were certainly not left empty handed. Furthermore, with Mauricio Pochettino’s growing ambition in north London, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Bale could be donning the white shirt of Tottenham in the future.
It was also the transfer that laid the foundations for Tottenham’s rising status in English, and European football. The money from the Bale (valued now at £81m on Transfermarkt.co.uk) deal went towards The Lilywhite’s big summer expenditures, where they brought in seven new players. While the likes of Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Paulinho’s careers never took off at Tottenham, the transfer still paved the way for current mainstays Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen (and Nacer Chadli before he was sold).
The fact that Tottenham were able to sign Eriksen for a fee of £11.5m shows how successful and shrewd there were throughout the transfer window that year. The Dane could easily be sold for over £100m in the transfer markets current climate, which goes to show, once again, what an astute businessman Levy is.
Tottenham’s crushing victory over Real at Wembley last year was a symbolic victory as well for The Lilywhites; a sign that they were no longer minnows in the eyes of the Spanish giants, either on or off the pitch. Had the Bale transfer never happened, Tottenham’s ascendency to a team playing its third consecutive season of Champions League football may not have happened either.
This was more than just a world-record signing, it was a statement on the global football stage by Tottenham. Los Blancos had come to ransack Tottenham of their star player, but they stood strong and made sure they got plenty out of the deal as well. It was an indication that Real president Florentino Pérez could not bully teams into selling their players, and the transfer market has never looked the same since.