$169m Bale would have transferred 'for a penny'

Welsh international soccer player Gareth Bale. Photo / AP
Welsh international soccer player Gareth Bale. Photo / AP

In Spain, gripped by economic recession for years, fans marked soccer's transfer deadline day by turning out in their thousands to greet the sport's first €100 million ($169 million) player.

Gareth Bale was paraded yesterday inside the Santiago Bernabeu stadium a day after completing his world-record move to Real Madrid from English Premier League club Tottenham.

"I would have come here for a penny," the Wales winger said. "I just wanted to be here and in a white shirt."

The 24-year-old Bale will earn a reputed €350,000 a week in Spain, which is plagued by an unemployment rate exceeding 26 per cent, highlighting how the country's leading soccer teams Madrid and Barcelona thrive in an economic bubble.

University of Barcelona finance professor Jose Maria Gay said Bale's transfer was "an act of arrogance when normal people are having a hard time".

Madrid did recoup half of the Bale fee by selling Mesut Ozil to Arsenal, becoming the Premier League's most expensive signing in 2013 as the English league's clubs spent more than a record £600 million ($1.2 billion) in the northern summer window.

By breaking Arsenal's transfer record to sign the 24-year-old Germany playmaker for €50 million, owner Stan Kroenke showed frustrated fans that he is willing to invest to produce the team's first trophy since 2005.

The Gunners had failed with bids for several stars over the summer, including Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, with the only arrivals the free signings of striker Yaya Sanogo and returning midfielder Mathieu Flamini.

It was even more frustrating at Manchester United.

The champions executed a smooth managerial transition in May when Alex Ferguson retired after almost 27 years and David Moyes took over.

But the change in the boardroom, with chief executive David Gill exiting and vice-chairman Ed Woodward assuming his responsibilities, appears to have been more significant, given the transfer woes.

It took until the final hours of the summer window to push a deal of note through, with Moyes turning to former club Everton to land Marouane Fellaini for £27.5 million.

The Belgium midfielder wasn't the marquee signing Moyes had hoped for to open the new era at United.

Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas was pursued for several weeks and the 20-time English champions failed in high-profile attempts to bring Real Madrid defender Fabio Coentrao and Athletic Bilbao midfielder to Old Trafford.

The biggest Premier League spenders of the summer were Tottenham, which splurged more than £110 million, largely from the Bale deal, on seven players in their bid to break back into the top four and qualify for the Champions League. Even after the winning start to the season ended with a derby loss to Arsenal on Monday, Tottenham resisted making any further additions to the squad before January.

The surprise performers so far are Liverpool, who are top after three victories, the latest against United on Monday, in their best start to the season since 1993 as they chase a 19th English title.

Liverpool's defensive options were enhanced yesterday with France international Mamadou Sakho signed from Paris Saint-Germain, and Tiago Ilori, who has represented Portugal in youth age groups, arriving from Sporting Lisbon.

Winger Victor Moses switched to Anfield on a season-long from Chelsea, which failed to hire primary summer target United striker Wayne Rooney.

One of the few significant deals in France yesterday was winger Florian Thauvin joining Marseille for €15 million after refusing to play for Lille. That is five times the fee Lille paid Bastia in January.

The World Cup at the end of the season has been on many players' minds as they considered their options.

Brazil playmaker Kaka yesterday agreed to a two-year deal with AC Milan following a free transfer from Real Madrid.

Top transfer fees (NZ dollars)

$169m Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid) 2013
$159mCristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United to Real Madrid) 2009
Kaka (AC Milan to Real Madrid) 2009
$105m Zinedine Zidane (Juventus to Real Madrid) 2001
$73m Luis Figo (Barcelona to Real Madrid) 2000
$70.5m Hernan Crespo (Parma to Lazio) 2000

-AP

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