What if I told you one of the world’s most recognizable players, who is just 30 years old, is available on a free transfer? Well, that’s apparently what Gareth Bale’s situation at Real Madrid has deteriorated into. MLS has recently swayed away from buying big-named, aging players, however, this could be a great opportunity for a needle-moving transfer.
Reports suggest that the Spanish giants are ready to let Bale leave for any club in the world without demanding a transfer fee. The reason for this is that the Welsh superstar’s salary is astronomically high and they simply want him off their books.
The relationship between Bale and Madrid has been a point of contention for years. Whether it was their fans, the media, or the manager, it’s been a non-stop cycle of drama since Bale arrived in 2013. His departure has seemed likely for a while. A deal just hasn’t materialized and now it seems like Madrid want to dump him to finally end the saga.
Money is obviously the biggest factor for any club looking to acquire Bale. He rakes in a cool $16 million a year in wages. In the era of Financial Fair Play, it’s not as simple as a rich club splashing as much cash as they want to get any player they want. Couple that with an uncertain economical shift in the sport due to a stoppage of play around the world and a move to another European club seems iffy at best.
This is where MLS has an opportunity. The advantage of the Designated Player rule is that salaries don’t matter for your top players. You can give them $2 million a year or $20 million, it’s all the same. If there is a club out there that wants to make a big impact signing to draw headlines, this would be a huge chance.
Bale’s numbers at Madrid are quite pedestrian for a player of his undeniable talents. It’s unfair to completely judge him on his numbers. The poor club relationship has clearly affected his play. You have to think that a fresh start and new challenge would see a reinvigorated Gareth Bale.
MLS would be an ideal fit for a player of his mold, as well. When fit and in-form, he’s shown to be the type of player that can take over a match at any given time in any situation. He’s not the type of player that needs the tactical system shaped perfectly to fit him. That’s the type of player you want to spend money on. Similar to the Carlos Velas of the world.
At 30 years old, he should have at least 2 or 3 very good years left in him, making it worth the risk for any club that desires him.
That leaves the question of which teams in MLS could feasibly afford his salary. The first obvious candidate is Inter Miami. They have the money and open DP spot. They’re an attractive destination for any star player to come and make an impact in.
Atlanta United clearly have the money to make a signing like this is they really wanted to, but the obstacles to making that happen are obvious. Firstly, it just hasn’t been their style to chase the big-named signings. Then there is the issue of no DP spots remaining to utilize. This could be solved by the sale of Ezequiel Barco, but that’s a pretty big ask in the middle of a season.
Other teams that could potentially afford him include LA Galaxy, LAFC and maybe Toronto FC. The Galaxy do have a DP spot open and are always looking to make that splashy, headline-grabbing move. LAFC don’t have an open spot, but like Atlanta, could sell one of their younger players like Diego Rossi or Brian Rodriguez. However, it may not make sense to add him to Vela as both occupy similar types of roles in the attack. TFC do have an open spot, but have recently shifted away from signing high-priced players.
So, that leaves 2-3 teams that could realistically take on Bale’s salary. On paper, that’s a ton of money to invest into one player. Especially when you consider it’s more than double Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s MLS-leading $7.2 million salary in 2019. It’s possible that number could be negotiated down to get a deal done and to make sure Bale’s Madrid nightmare comes to an end, but it would still likely be a record-setting salary for the league.
While Bale wouldn’t have a David Beckham-type of impact on the league, it would still draw quite a few eyeballs from around the world like that deal did. With MLS such a drastically different league than it was 10 years ago when Beckham joined, perhaps it’s time for another marquee signing like that to advertise the league to the world again.
The risks are pretty clear, but the rewards could be quite good if a team out there were willing to make the move. Especially for a club like Miami who haven’t quite made the initial splash many expected led by Beckham. Having the league’s posterboy for headline-grabbing signings engineer a move for another one could be kismet.
What do you think? Would Gareth Bale be a good signing for a rich MLS club? Which team do you think he’ll end up at after leaving Real Madrid?