Home and Away

The week that was is anyone's guess

Middle East cauldron or Bo Xilai corruption trial? Thankfully, the mania of the summer transfer window is a far easier nut to crack

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 4:26am

What a busy week it's been trying to make sense of the world. Many made a stab at explaining the significance of court proceedings in Jinan and the threat of world war three in the Middle East.

And much extrapolation was made of two rival managers pacing the Old Trafford technical areas and over the expected VIP arrival of the world's most expensive player at The Bernabeu in Madrid.

Quite what the extraordinary trial of Bo Xilai signifies - a new openness in China's "nascent" civil society perhaps, or mere political stagecraft - no one could say for sure. Nor, despite best efforts, could any semblance of meaning be found in the angry bubbles of the ever-boiling Middle East cauldron.

Thankfully, the mischievous, subliminal messages of footballers, their agents and managers during the mania of the summer transfer window are far easier nuts to crack.

Interpretation of Jose Mourinho's transfer-speak - a rich code loaded with innuendo, double-think and the odd nudge-nudge and wink, together with his team selection for the scoreless bore draw against Manchester United - were comparatively easier to fathom.

Mourinho is a masterful Machiavellian and the manipulator extraordinaire relished fuelling the ceaseless speculation over Wayne Rooney's desire to move.

As Chelsea fans sung "see you next week" to United's unsettled No. 9, Mourinho delivered an easily cracked message. His starting XI line-up on Monday evening was a thinly veiled invitation for Rooney to jump ship and fill the stark void up front - a come on if ever there was one.

The club owner was also reminded via Mourinho's coding to keep his wallet open until Monday and the transfer deadline - subtle hints Abramovich duly took, what with the flurry of signings including Willian the Brazilian, Samuel Eto'o and Christian Atsu towards the end of the week.

Mourinho's scheming tickles us, and we all roll over willingly and submissively, glad the cheeky bohemian is back in the EPL fold to keep us on our toes.

Watching United fans fret that one of their big guns might be about to swivel his sights upon them and tip the balance of power in the top four has been delightful fare.

Making head or tail of the protracted departure of Gareth Bale from Tottenham to Real Madrid poses more of a challenge, however.

That Bale will be playing his football in the galacticos' coliseum is now a given. Spurs are prudent to sell him for a record £85 million (HK$1 billion) because they can splash the filthy lucre and allow Andre Villas-Boas to build a rounded team, rather than construct a squad centred on one prodigious talent like last season.

Yet with Spain's economy flatlining and many of the country's broke clubs expecting an imminent knock from the bailiffs, it does not take much imagination to picture how Bale's toe-curling price tag has gone down with Spain's army of unemployed - like a lead balloon stuffed with overweight hippos.

Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino might have been speaking out of envy when he described the deal as "lacking respect for the world we live in". But his apparent disgust struck a chord.

Gifted as he is - and he might go on to develop his talent and justify his value - is Bale truly worth such a staggering sum? Moreover, is there any player worth that kind of money? At one point the "on-off" deal had the star priced at £103 million.

For the record, he is not. As good as the 24-year-old is, Bale is no Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, especially with his injury jinx.

Besides, Real already boast a world-class attacking midfield winger in Ronaldo. Surely they needed a striker to add to their gilded dressing room.

Yet in the eyes of Real's marketing department, the answer is an unashamedly and resounding "yes", Bale is worth every cent.

When seeking meaning to the excesses of 21st century soccer, recall the infamous "How ugly is Ronaldinho?!" remark by a Real heavyweight back in 2003.

"There was no point buying him, it wasn't worth it. He's so ugly that he'd sink you as a brand. Between Ronaldinho and Beckham, I'd go for Beckham a hundred times," the club official told Spanish newspapers.

"Just look how handsome Beckham is, the class he has, the image. The whole of Asia has fallen in love with us because of Beckham. Ronaldinho is too ugly," he added.

Real's shameful vanity was Barcelona's gain because Ronaldinho signed for the Nou Camp.

Yet there is smart accounting in Real's insensitive policy of style and substance over just plain old talent. Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly earned back his £80 million price tag through merchandising in the first season alone. And Beckham more than earned his keep with 8,000 shirts sold on the first day of his arrival.

Real have spotted Bale's unique selling point - the gelled hair and cute hand signals - that will wow the competitive Asian market and the fledgling US to adopt their colours.

In these regions, new and potential fans care little for past glories and instead are attracted to celebrity icons.

Many clubs are following suit, jettisoning their histories and traditions in pursuit of the Asian and US buck - the deplorable shirt changes against the will of fans at Cardiff and Southampton cases in point.

Exactly what, then, does Bale's mystifying price tag truly mean for the game? Your guess is as good anyone's.