Full disclosure: I am a Tottenham supporter, so this Gareth Bale "transfer saga" has worked me up. That doesn't mean I have lost my journalistic sensibilities, but it's clear the English media has. How Gareth Bale could go from 100% clear cut remaining a Tottenham player on Thursday to demanding a transfer the next day is beyond me, even with all that's shrouded in mystery. But, as an experiment in studying media reports, let's track the recent goings-on of Gareth Bale's apparent Real Madrid courtship.
Reports began to flare up when Spanish daily Marca, who do make no bones about the fact they love Real Madrid, published a piece saying that Gareth Bale had already agreed a move to the Bernabeu, but only now was it being revealed. Bale is "quoted" as saying,
"You made me a promise. You promised if we didn't qualify for the Champions League and a good offer turned up you'd listen to it. Well that offer has arrived and I want to play for Real Madrid. So keep your word and negotiate." He also said, "I'm not interested in Manchester United or any other club. I only want to play for Real Madrid."
Flashback one year to the Luka Modric transfer saga, when Marca published an article that rang similar bells to the Bale one above. In fact, they had quotes from Modric himself, when he said,
"You made me a promise. You promised if we didn't qualify for the Champions League and a good offer turned up you'd listen to it. Well that offer has arrived and I want to play for Real Madrid. So keep your word and negotiate. I'm not interested in Manchester United or any other club. I only want to play for Real Madrid."
Ironic, isn't it? Even for a paper that is for all intents and purposes a club mouthpiece, blatantly recycling quotes that weren't even said to begin with is a new low. And weren't there reports of Modric being frustrated at Real this season anyway? All that glitters certainly isn't gold (Certainly funnier now that Modric himself is rumored to be part of the fee Spurs "want" to ship Bale to Madrid). Even this slice of hilarious self-parody masquerading as journalism couldn't help but get picked up by the English tabloids, who have now run with the story creating full-bloated chaos.
By Sunday, most English tabloids had written stories saying bids from Real have been rejected by Spurs, but few of them could agree on the fee. The Daily Mirror said an £81m bid was nixed, which the Sun agreed with. Marca apparently agreed with the Sun but said the bid was 1 million quid less. The Daily Mail claimed the bid was £82m. ESPNFC (not even an English tabloid) went so far as to say the bid was €100m (or £86.3m). Well at least they could agree a bid was "made". Stoking the fires was the lack of noise from Jonathan Barnett, Bale's agent, Spurs, and Bale himself, indicating that something might be occurring behind the scenes.
As this piece is being written on Tuesday, Sky Sports have claimed a bid was made by Real at £85m, and has been on the table for a week, while also slashing betting rates that Bale will be leaving Spurs on their sister website SkyBet. Isn't that just a funny coincidence? The Daily Mirror claim Spurs have dug in their heels and are holding out for £126m, and cite Marca as their source. At this rate if it's sunny out and Marca claimed the sky was blue, I still wouldn't believe it. It doesn't help that reports have been circulating that Real were preparing an offer of 51 million pounds plus Fabio Coentrao and Angel Di Maria for Bale, despite no apparent desire from any of the other players to leave Real, or any indication that this offer was actually a thought.
So, to sum things up for those lost, is every source claims a bid has been made, but they can't agree price, time-frame, or what Daniel Levy is even doing at this point (hopefully enjoying some strong alcohol as he may need it). Combine the lack of clarity with a lack of trust that many fans have in the English media for not accurately reporting on transfer sagas, the entire situation has descended into a farce.
What will come next will be the constant reporting from Spurs Lodge on whether Bale is training, and how current Real Madrid players (especially Luka Modric) back Bale to come to Spurs. Even Zinedine Zidane, Real's director of football, is trumpeting a "once-in-a-lifetime chance" to join Los Blancos. With the entire situation reeking of the Ronaldo transfer saga 4 year back, the drama (manufactured or not), is certainly there, and isn't subsiding any time soon, and the English tabloids will feast on it, while the frustration mounts around them.
Does Gareth Bale actually want to move to Real Madrid? Who knows. Have Real Madrid even made a suitable offer yet, or is the paper talk just that? Who knows. Will Daniel Levy and Florentino Perez have a steel cage match to decide Bale's future club? Who knows. Is everyone reading these stories starting to grow numb to transfer sagas and tabloid trespassing? That's more certain. The anatomy of a transfer saga of this magnitude is complicated, stupid, and filled with mis-information leading everyone to wonder who is remotely trustworthy anymore. I for one will only believe Bale is staying when the transfer window shuts on September 2, or whether the Spurs official twitter account says he's leaving. Everything up until then is hearsay and bloviation on a spectacular level. But at least there's a silver lining to this farcical mess:
I haven't seen the word "sources" mentioned once.
Marca quote comparison courtesy Spurs blog Dear Mr. Levy. Real Madrid bid aggregation from papers courtesy Spurs blog Cartilage Free Captain.