Madrid - When Gareth Bale recently signed a contract that bound him to Real Madrid until 2022, the Welsh international was immediately catapulted into the role of being the world’s best-paid player.
Having lost the mantle of being the most expensive player to Paul Pogba, who returned to his old club Manchester United from Juventus for £95 million (R1.5 billion), Bale did not have to wait long to find himself back in the record books, as he is reportedly signed on for £600 000.
That’s R10 million per week. To put that into perspective, if he plays four full matches a month, he will be earning R65 000 a minute. His buyout clause is €1 billion.
But, just as remarkable, if not more, is the length of the contract.
Although the 27-year-old Bale is still in his best footballing age, he has committed to staying with the reigning European champions for the next six years, at which stage he will be 33 and winding down his career.
When the club announced the contract extension at a media conference, Bale said he was looking forward to being at Real for the next few years.
“The reason I have signed [the extension] is that I am very happy,” he said.
“I feel comfortable. My Spanish is improving. My family is more settled.
“I don’t know when I am going to retire, [but] I fully intend to see out my contract here.”
At the end of his contract, Bale will have been with the Madrid giants for nine years, longer than most other foreigners have stayed with the club.
The reason Real is so eager to extend Bale and other stars’ contracts is that the club is not allowed to make any signing in the next two transfer periods, after having been found guilty of breaching international transfer regulations.
The other, possibly more important, reason is that the powers that be are likely to be looking to Bale to lead the club on the field in the next few years, which in turn could herald the beginning of the end for three-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
The two could not be more opposite. On the one hand, you have the self-serving showman Ronaldo, who has taken the concept of self-marketing to new heights. And on the other hand, you have Bale, who shuns the limelight as much as he can.
As a result, Bale’s role in Real’s recent success (two Champions League titles, the Club World Cup and one Copa del Rey since his arrival) has not received the credit that it deserves, although his statistics tell a different story.
He has played 135 times for Real and has not only scored 62 goals – for an average of just under a goal every second game – he has also provided 42 assists.
He has thus contributed towards 104 goals since being signed from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
At the time, there was some disbelief that Real had paid a then world-record fee for the winger, but even though he partly lacks the glamour and high profile of a Ronaldo, he has delivered the goods on the pitch.
And that is something that has not gone unnoticed by the club, with former international striker Emilio Butragueño, who is now head of institutional affairs, joining Bale at the media conference where the mega-deal was announced.
“You’re a fundamental man for us and we’re satisfied that you will be with us at least until 2022,” Butragueño said.
Former president Ramón Calderón went even further when praising Bale: “It was well worth paying what we paid for Gareth Bale when we signed him from Tottenham.”
Calderón said Bale “can be a player forever with Real Madrid”.
And with a weekly pay cheque of R10 million, that sounds like quite a sweet deal.