The Premier League has learned a thing or two about anticlimaxes recently. In a few weeks, the division that likes to market itself as the “best league in the world” has gone from the prospect of welcoming Lionel Messi to English shores to trying to be enthusiastic about Gareth Bale’s comeback tour.
Talk about a letdown.
Bale is rejoining Tottenham Hotspur, seven years after leaving the north London club for Real Madrid. A ton of injuries and a spat with manager Zinedine Zidane have meant a bitter end to life in the Spanish capital for Bale.
The 31-year-old is still talented, but Messi he ain’t. It looked increasingly like Premier League audiences would finally get to enjoy Messi’s magic every week. That dream ended when he backed down amid a transfer standoff with Barcelona and La Liga.
Bale is no longer the force he was, and Jose Mourinho is no longer the manager he used to be. The Tottenham boss has looked like a spent force, distracted by arguments with the media and the need to defend his reputation, rather than focused on delivering results on the pitch.
Rubber-stamping a deal for faded star Bale looks like a sign of desperation from Mourinho. There isn’t much to get excited about this signing. The most intriguing aspect will be Mourinho’s reaction the first few times Bale lands on the injury list. Watch the video:
Even if Bale rediscovers his swagger circa 2012, it’ll be old hat to Premier League audiences. We’ve seen peak Bale before–the pace, athleticism, and unerring eye for goal.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and excitement comes from something new. A few glimpses of vintage Bale may make some nostalgic for the 2010s, but that won’t stir the soul the way seeing Messi prove himself in England would have.
Many of the complaints levied against Bale can also apply to Messi. He’s 33 and past his prime as a player.
Yet, Messi is so good he’s the exception to every rule. Even during a trophyless season for Barcelona, the Argentinian scored 28 goals and provided 24 assists in La Liga and UEFA Champions League action.
Messi’s brilliance is set in stone, but there’s still been a few naysayers who’ve wondered aloud how he would cope with the rough and tumble of England’s top flight. It’s a pointless argument because the most-naturally gifted player of his generation would thrive in any league. Still, it would’ve been fun putting theories about Messi and the Premier League to rest. Watch the video:
Messi making the grade in England would have added another layer to the debate about who is better, Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? The latter was a Premier League icon with Manchester United before bossing the Champions League with Real Madrid and helping Juventus maintain a firm grip on the Serie A crown.
If Messi tore up the Premier League in the winter of his career, it would’ve gone a long way toward cementing his status as the undisputed best player of his era. It would also have given the division some much-needed star power.
Formerly top players are becoming the best the Premier League can attract. Bale will become the second would-be, but ultimately failed, Real Madrid star to join the division this summer.
James Rodriguez also left Real to join Everton. Like Bale, the Colombian’s peak was some time ago, namely the 2014 World Cup.
Signing Rodriguez was an obvious coup for Everton, but it’s hard to get too enthusiastic about a 29-year-old who has often promised more than he’s delivered.
The pattern is evident with other signings. Thiago Alcantara is joining Liverpool . He’s a gifted playmaker but also 29 and nearing the end of his prime.
Then there’s Thiago Silva, the 35-year-old who swapped Paris Saint-Germain for Chelsea. He was once one of the best defenders on the planet, but the Brazilian is surely a shell of his former self playing out one last big payday.
Everywhere you look, Premier League clubs are hoovering up aging icons who will never see their best form again.
Bale belongs in the same bracket, and while he’s capable of dominating games, the hype for his return is nothing compared to the anticipation Messi would have generated.