The Santiago Bernabeu stadium was not even half full when Gareth Bale was introduced as a Real Madrid player on Monday. In 2009, when Cristiano Ronaldo was presented as a new Galactico, more than 80,000 fans turned up to welcome their new hero. Ronaldo was already a superstar with a Champions League winners medal in his bag. Bale had an exceptional last season with Tottenham Hotspur and was Premier League player of the year. But he is no Ronaldo or Lionel Messi yet. Real Madrid, however, want him to be their new Ronaldo.
A €100mn tag on a football player might seem unreal. But the game has changed and so has its dynamics. Bale's inclusion has given the Spanish giants a huge marketing opportunity. The Welshman is only 24, full of energy and free of controversy. And he's a match winner. Real Madrid aim to make him a global brand and encash on his brand value. Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world, both money and performance wise. It has an annual turnover of €250mn and is the most successful club in the European Cup history with nine titles. The club of the Galacticos, including Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Raul Gonzalez, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, has always been the biggest buyer in the transfer market. It has brought in a new star not just to create the Bale-Ronaldo axis but more importantly to do business. And the club has partially offset the deal by offloading Mesut Ozil to Arsenal for £42mn. Bale, however, will be under huge pressure to justify his price tag. He will have to face Ronaldo's ego on the field, while the off-field challenge would be to adjust to a Spanish lifestyle. Both David Beckham and Michael Owen failed in this. British players usually don't enjoy Spanish connection but Bale has just begun. It's not his fault that Real Madrid valued him at €100 million. Now to see if he is worth more than the €95mn Real Madrid paid for Ronaldo.