Gareth Bale fee affordable while TV deals inflate football market
Last updated on .From the section Football
For many people, Gareth Bale's £85m record-breaking transfer to Real Madrid is another sign of football's ever weakening grip on reality.
A brilliant player - no question. The most exciting young star in the Premier League - absolutely. One of the best in the world? Not yet.
But then Real's signing of Bale is not only about his ability on the pitch. It's about image rights and shirt sales and sending a statement to the rest of Spanish football and beyond that Real are still the biggest and richest footballing institution on the planet.
Florentino Perez, the construction entrepreneur who is president of Real Madrid, is the master of the grand gesture. Over the past 13 years he has broken the world record transfer five times - Figo in 2000,Zidane in 2001,Kaka and then Ronaldo in 2009 and now Bale in 2013. Those five players cost a cool £303.6m.
It's an eye-watering sum of money. But it is money Real Madrid can afford. Last year the Spanish club earned £415m, making them the wealthiest football club on the planet. And besides, Perez argues that in the end these marquee signings pay for themselves in increased replica shirt sales and sponsorship.
It's hard to really test this theory, although there is little doubt that clubs can charge sponsors a much higher price if their teams include a handful of superstar players. As the Uefa president Michel Platini said last week, footballers are no longer players, they are products.
In one sense Real Madrid are a special case. Their motivation for spending is driven by local and global forces. No big player is signed at the Santiago Bernabeu without a glance back at old rivals Barcelona. Their £50m signing of the Brazil striker Neymar earlier this summer only made Real's pursuit of Bale more intense.
Perez also sees an opportunity to take advantage of the Premier League's global appeal - particularly in Asia and the United States. Bale might not be seen as the finished article here, but when NBC launched its new exclusive TV deal for the Premier League this summer the 24-year-old Welshman was chosen as the face to adorn posters in New York's Times Square.
But beyond Madrid, this has been a summer of lavish spending across England and Europe. By the time the transfer window shuts, Premier League clubs will have taken gross transfer spending way past the previous record of £500m.
Tottenham didn't wait for the Bale deal to be completed before spending almost £100m on new players to replace him, while Manchester City have spent £97.5m, Liverpool more than £70m and Chelsea £57m.
So while Madrid and Barcelona - plus a couple of clubs in France and Italy - have been spending big, as a collective unit the Premier League still has the most financial muscle.
Once again, it's all down to pay TV. From this season, clubs in the Premier League will start to benefit from the new £5.5bn, three-year deal for domestic and overseas TV rights. Much of this - £3bn - comes from Sky and BT Sport. The competition between these two companies has helped inflate the football economy to unprecedented levels.
And to think this is supposed to be the season when new cost control measures introduced by Uefa and the Premier League start to bite. Even Arsene Wenger, the prudent Arsenal manager who recently described this summer's spending as crazy, has been sucked in, spending £42m on Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil.
But then these measures are only designed to stop clubs spending what they cannot afford.
So while the sums being spent by clubs here and in Europe might seem extraordinary, the even more extraordinary sums being paid by TV companies to show live football mean they can probably just about afford it.
This makes it a social disgrace for a country on its knees with 50% youth unemployment. Fortunately, Spain is getting to grips with. They can't afford to bale out Real anymore - and it will bite them very soon.
Yes the income was £415m but no mention of the debt the club carries.
If I have £10M in my bank account but owe £11M, does that make me rich?
The money may be mega bucks but the entertainment certainly isn't.
A good deal for both clubs - but even better for Bale
Many people, some of them who save lives for a living, will have to work for over 5 years to earn what Mr Bale will "earn" in 1 week. Absolutely pathetic!
No Fabregas, No Bale, No Ronaldo......No Worries......£27m for Fellaini,,,,,,,,who was going for £23m a few weeks ago
Honk Honk....and hoof it up to Marouane
ENGLISH FOOTBALL R.I.P
2 days before the window closes - ''Why haven't they signed anyone! they need a midfielder/big-name signing/anyone. Everyone must spend, to spend is to win.''
2 days after - ''Ohhh football has lost touch with the common man, disgusting fees, think of the children/hospitals/fabric of society''.
make up your minds, lads.
I have also followed Real all my life....same as many many others! I support an English club but I always chose Real over Barca and Celtic over Rangers and Juve over the rest etc etc...do you assume he's a Man U fan given he's not from Manchester...is that it?
Good luck to him at RM, hope he is very successful
Football transfers need to be taxed back to reality.