Gareth Bale to Southampton is a True Long Shot That Shouldn’t Be Ruled Out
Just over 39-years ago, something truly spectacular happened. On February 10th, 1980, then Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy called a major press conference. What came next was something few would have ever expected from a club the size of Southampton. Agreeing to a deal with Hamburger SV, Southampton shocked the English footballing community with the announcement that they had signed forward Kevin Keegan.
At the time, Keegan was the defending European Player of the Year and was seen by many as the best player in the world. Moreso, Keegan has just come off a European Championships campaign where he captained the England national team. For a club the size of Southampton, the £420,000 signing came as a great surprise to everyone.
Fast forward to 2019 and the Saints may just have an outside chance at once again shocking the world. This time by signing former academy product and Welsh national team star Gareth Bale.
Gareth Bale to Southampton is a Real Possibility
Speaking to BT Sport recently in their ‘What I Wore’ segment, Bale sparked interest across the entirety of Southampton. Presented with a huge variety of former player kits as well as his own past shirts, the 29-year-old spoke extremely highly of his time on the South Coast.
Talking about a variety of topics, Bale touched on his feelings before his first professional match at Southampton as well as the camaraderie that was shared amongst his fellow youth players. However, the biggest piece of news came late on in the interview. Pressed to choose only two jerseys that he would save from a burning building, Bale quickly selected his Southampton jersey.
Between both that and his praise for Southampton in terms of developing him as a footballer, Bale undoubtedly has a special place in his heart for Saints. Adding this together with rumours of an upcoming departure from Real Madrid, Bale has managed to get people talking.
Could Southampton Really Afford Bale?
The truth to this question lies in just what ownership wants to do. Under Southampton’s current wage and transfer structure, the answer is, unequivocally, no. However, given Bale’s status as one of the world’s best footballers as well as his own popularity across the British Isles, Saints management just might give themselves pause before passing on such a deal.
Another huge key to this scenario is Southampton’s ability to offload dead weight. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has already stated that he wants to cut the size of Southampton’s first team this summer. In fact, since Hasenhuttl’s arrival, Wesley Hoedt, Cedric Soares, and Manolo Gabbiadini have all been loaned out with options to buy.
Selling another host of players this summer will give Southampton a nice war chest to move forward with. With Bale having an extremely turbulent time at Real Madrid this season, the Welshman may even be available at a premium this summer. While his current value remains around £80 million, Bale could easily be sold for less.
The biggest issue here though will not be Real Madrid’s asking price. Instead, that honour will go to Bale’s wage demands. Currently making around £350,000 a week after tax, Bale is an unaffordable luxury for Southampton. However, should the Welshman lower his demands, Saints may just find a way to work through such a deal once potential advertising and sales are factored in.
Would Bale Even Want to Play for Southampton?
Another huge question mark surrounds even whether Bale would want to return to Southampton at the current time. Playing for Real Madrid, Bale is used to competing in the Champions League as well as for other trophies. Despite his own greatness, it would be a major stretch for Bale to turn Southampton into a contender.
Of course, though, an outside chance remains that Bale may see a return to Saints as a true challenge. Having already lifted the Champions League title four times, Bale may view transforming Southampton as the ultimate task. Taking a middle tiered English club up the table and turning them into a contender. While not as glamorous as the Champions League, such a task would still cement his legacy.
Overall though, this is without a doubt a long shot. An end result that will require a long chain of events to fire in sequence without hitch. Will Gareth Bale return to Southampton? Almost certainly not, at least not yet. Then again, no one expected what to come in February of 1980. After all, why can’t lightning strike twice?