After weeks of rumors, reports, wrangling and who knows what else, Gareth Bale is now a Real Madrid player. It's a massive move for the Welsh midfielder as he joins one of the biggest clubs in the world. It's also a massive move in financial terms as Los Blancos dropped a reported €100 million.
Now that Bale has finally been sold to Madrid, it's time to figure out what the heck to do with him. Obviously he's going to play -- you don't spent such an ungodly sum for a bench warmer -- but that's going to rock the boat a bit in the locker room and likely displace a couple players to limited minutes at best.
Carlo Ancelotti now has four players and two spots in the midfield to fill. Assuming that Bale plays on the right wing that pretty much leaves Angel di Maria as the first man out. Bale is an upgrade of Di Maria so that really isn't going to be much of a problem other than the fact that Di Maria could want to leave the Bernabéu.
Assuming that Mesut Özil is sold -- the signs are pointing to the German being sold to Arsenal by the end of the transfer window on Monday -- it should make things a little easier for Ancelotti in terms of player selection. Isco becomes "the man" in the center of the Madrid attack with Ronaldo and Bale flanking him. If Özil ends up sticking around, Ancelotti is going to spend the season juggling playing time and egos, which will only make his job harder.
The other big issue facing Madrid with the addition of Bale will be team morale.
It doesn't take much for the fragile ego of a professional footballer to be disrupted and if Di Maria, Özil, or both stay, the coaches are going to have a hell of time balancing minutes this season. Madrid's players don't live in a bubble, they're well aware of what is happening and they read the papers. The arrival of Bale has not been a secret and opinions are already being formed about the player and what his impact will be at the club.
Bale's long term success with Los Merengues could have as much to do with his ability to endear himself to his new teammates as it does with his on-field abilities. He's going to have to win some players over and prove he's not going to just be an on-going distraction for a team burdened with monumental expectations.
Ultimately this move needs to make Real Madrid better. Better for Los Blancos means not only winning the league again but finally claiming their coveted 10th European Cup.
Does adding Bale really make the team better though?
On paper it does.
We know Bale can score goals and we know he's grown as a player in the last couple seasons as his role has expanded at Spurs. If he can fit in and get comfortable at Madrid it's truly frightening to consider an attacking midfield that features Ronaldo, Isco and Bale. For opposing defenses it will be like staring into the angry jowls of a mythical Cerberus, just waiting to tear them apart.
Bale is going to be under levels of pressure he's never experienced before. Nothing he's seen or felt at Spurs will compare to playing for Madrid because it's not just another level, it's another world entirely. Bale will be expected to perform at a high level and quickly prove he's worth the money.
The pressure on Bale pales in comparison to the pressure that this signing puts on Florentino Perez. While Bale is an upgrade on the right over Di Maria, the idea of adding Bale for such an absurd transfer fee stinks of an ego move by the Real Madrid president. A reactionary buy to Barcelona adding Neymar earlier in the summer. Bale does not fill a role that Madrid have been lacking production from, even if he's better than Di Maria.
It's a luxury buy that can be justified but by forcing the move through this summer rather than waiting another year gives us a view of Perez's mindset.
Madrid likely would have been just fine without the Welshman, but Perez clearly felt he needed to make a splash in the transfer market and he certainly did.