Arrigo Sacchi has suggested Real Madrid are interested in signing Gareth Bale for commercial not footballing reasons.
With Madrid president Florentino Perez reportedly willing to go over €100 million to sign the Wales international, pundits in Spain and England have marvelled at a world record fee being paid for a player who, while undoubtedly talented, has yet to really prove himself at Champions League or international level.
The veteran Italian coach, who was sporting director at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for the 2004-05 season, told Venezuelan paper Meridiano that he believed that business considerations were at play in the transfer.
"I believe it is a commercial operation,” Sacchi said. “I reckon Madrid, through their sponsors, have thought about signing an English player. Because, in truth, €120m is a huge amount of money."
Perez, and Madrid’s director general Jose Angel Sanchez, have been well aware of the commercial opportunities gained by signing certain big names since they launched their ‘galactico’ policy during Perez’s first term as club president in the early 2000s.
The recruitment of David Beckham in 2003 was an even bigger commercial success than Perez expected, and led to further moves for his then England colleagues Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate.
“We are content providers,” Sanchez once told Time magazine. “It is like a film studio -- and having a team with [Zinedine] Zidane in it is like having a movie with Tom Cruise.”
Bale’s commercial appeal is thought to be huge -- both in England and elsewhere -- after being named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award and Young Player of the Year for the 2012-13
The Cardiff-born player and his representatives have also shown an awareness of commercial possibilities themselves, with the winger earlier this summer moving to trademark his heart-shaped goal celebration.