Madrid: Now that Real Madrid has nabbed Gareth Bale for an unconfirmed world record fee, recession-hit Spain wants to see if the 24-year-old earns his money on the field.
The towering price risks sowing discord in the Real Madrid dressing room, and there is no guarantee Bale will live up to expectations, the Spanish press warned Monday as the player was presented in the Bernabeu.
British papers say Real Madrid paid Tottenham 101 million euros ($133.5 million, £86 million) for the Welshman. But Spain's press, quoting Real Madrid sources, say the price tag was "only" 91 million euros.
The price difference is crucial.
At 91 million euros, Bale's transfer fee would be less than the then record 94 million euros Madrid paid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, whose contract must be re-negotiated before it runs out in two years.
At the time, Ronaldo had been awarded FIFA's Balon d'Or for player of the year and had won a Champions League and three English league titles.
If the price for Bale is 101 million euros, or more, it would be the highest price ever paid for a player.
"For Real Madrid, it is good to make the 91 million euros official. Ronaldo is on the horizon," said leading Spanish daily El Pais.
"There has never been such a gap between the price paid for a signing and his market value," El Pais said under an article headlined: "More price than CV."
Noting that Bale had only played 11 Champions League matches, the paper said Bale would earn a net 11 million euros a year under his contract.
"In the final days the club managed to keep the contract secret, convinced that if the team got to know if it, it would provoke a wave of pay-rise requests," El Pais said.
Bale will be the 13th Briton to have played for Real Madrid, said Barcelona-based La Vanguardia.
"Of the last four, only David Beckham lived up to expectations, and that was a very profitable signing though more on the commercial side than the sporting side," it warned.
Even if Real Madrid had paid 91 million euros for Bale, that would mean club president Florentino Perez had now spent 170 million euros on five signings in the summer transfer window, it said.
"Florentino has an undeserved reputation as an excellent negotiator," said Roberto Palomar, columnist in Spain's top-selling sports daily Marca.
"His tactic is to pay the maximum possible. Anyone could do it," he said.
If things go badly for Bale on the field "they will whistle him just as they are now whistling (French international Karim) Benzema," Palomar warned.