Jim White

Madrid will not embrace Bale like Premier League embraces stars

Jim White

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Now the proper business starts.

The flash mob gurning for the camera, the news reporters pretending they have the first clue what is going on, the anchor man self-combusting in front of the watching nation: it is all over for another four months.

Now the real purpose of the transfer window is demonstrated. Finally we can see what all the fuss was about.

At Arsenal, the fans will be given the opportunity to assess whether their giddy welcome for Mesut Ozil was appropriate. The spontaneous party which erupted outside the Emirates at the news that the club wallet had finally been opened (and was found to contain more than the assumed bunch of moths) was it worth it?

Were Chelsea fans right to be smirking about the cloak-and-dagger snatching of Willian from under Tottenham’s nose? Or will it turn out that they did their north London rivals a mighty favour?

Are Manchester United fans correct in their assumptions that the arrival only of Maroune Fellaini suggests their club’s new hierarchy has all the sophisticated touch in the market of an eight year old in possession of a gift certificate to the toy shop? Or will it turn out that their chief executive’s insistence that all went exactly according to a carefully structured plan is closer to the truth?

Was it Everton or Manchester City who had the best window? And what of Newcastle United? Might it be kinder for the rest of us not to intrude in private grief at St James’s Park?

From tomorrow we will find out.

Imagine, though, just for a moment you were one of those making their debut for a new employer this weekend.

We’ve all been the new kid at school, we have all experienced the nerve-wrenching terror of not really knowing what is going on, of having quickly to assimilate into new ways, of trying to work out how best to fit in.

It must be like that for all the freshly transferred players, except with this difference: we turned up at school because it happened to be the one just round the corner from where we lived, not because the head teacher had paid out tens of millions of pounds for us in the express expectation that we would have an immediate improving effect on the place’s standing in the exam league tables.

For the footballing newbie, not only are they having to cope with new colleagues, new surroundings, new power structures, they are also burdened with the financial assumption that they will immediately make a difference. That is pressure.

Some players find it easier than others. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo would not be concerned for a moment. Absolutely certain of their own worth, they would walk into a new place expecting immediately to dominate, assuming the ball would be passed to them in training sessions, utterly certain the assists would come their way in matches.

But not everyone is buoyed by their massive reserves of self-worth. Gareth Bale, for instance.

As was evident during his unveiling in Madrid with his wholly under-whelming attempts at demonstrating his facility with a keepy-up, this is a man who, quite understandably, feels the nerves.

When he first stepped out on to the Bernabeu pitch he looked, frankly, petrified, barely able to communicate in the language at which he is most fluent: football. And who can blame him. It is some burden he carries, as the world’s most expensive player at the world’s most demanding club.

He will have already discovered that this is a club where patience is not considered a virtue. Given that the crowd favourite Ozil was let go in order to fund his purchase, he will be given no time at all by the supporters to acclimatise.This is a place where demands are such that even Zinedine Zidane was once booed impatiently.

Bale will have to hit the ground running, immediately show his worth. Probably, if he is deemed fit enough to play against Villarreal tomorrow evening, in order to stem the gathering swell of assumption, he will have to score on his debut.

And doing that in a team riven with personal agendas will not be easy – especially with reports mounting that the Welshman may well play his first game for the Spanish giants at his old, pre-phenom position of left-back

If Madrid are awarded a penalty, or a free-kick outside the box, the last thing he can expect is for Ronaldo to give him the welcoming chance to open his account from a set piece, either.

While the Arsenal players will largely be in awe of their new colleague Ozil, at Madrid Bale will be greeted with far more scepticism, issued with the unspoken invitation by team-mates to prove his worth all the outlay, that he really should be paid even more stellar sums than they are.

He is now engaging with a place where pressure is of another order altogether. And from tomorrow we will discover if he has the right stuff to thrive in the cauldron.

Good luck with that Gareth.

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