Madrid: Thousands of Real Madrid fans flocked to the Bernabeu to welcome Gareth Bale on Monday after the nine-time European champions sealed the purchase of the Wales winger from Tottenham Hotspur for what the London club said was a world record fee.
The summer’s longest transfer saga finally ended on Sunday when Spurs announced they had sold Bale to Real for $132 million and the La Liga club confirmed he had agreed a six-year contract.
The 24-year-old, the latest “galactico” signing engineered by the world’s richest club under president Florentino Perez, passed a medical at a clinic in Madrid on Monday morning before signing his contract and being presented to excited fans inside the giant arena.
Wearing a sharp black suit, white shirt and black tie, Bale listened to a translation as Perez introduced him on the VIP tribune and described him as an“exceptional footballer”.
Real had unearthed a picture of Bale wearing a club shirt as a child and Perez said the Welshman had always dreamed of playing for the club. “Bale’s determination made it possible for him to be here today,” said Perez, his speech regularly interrupted by cheers.
“The moment he dreamed of as a child has arrived. As of now, this is your stadium, this is your shield and these are your fans. This is your home.”
Bale, who was accompanied by members of his family, then sprung a surprise by making a brief statement in Spanish. He told fans signing for the club was“a dream come true” and he hoped to help them win the“decima”, or 10th European title. He thanked them for their welcome and concluded by punching the air and shouting“Hala Madrid!”, the club’s traditional rallying cry, drawing another immense cheer.
He quickly changed into Real’s all-white kit, including his new number 11 shirt, and took to the pitch, before throwing and kicking balls into the crowd.
At a later news conference, Bale gave a confident performance fielding questions from Spanish and British media and said he was well aware of how important winning the Champions League was for the club. “I wanted to play Champions League football, it was a massive reason,” he said, adding that one of his earliest memories of Real was the spectacular volley Zinedine Zidane scored in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen.
“We want to win the 10th European Cup and I hope I can help make that dream come true for the club and the fans.”
He said he was looking forward to playing alongside Ronaldo, previously the world’s most expensive player after joining from Manchester United for around 94 million euros in 2009. “He’s the boss here I think,” Bale joked when asked who would be taking the attacking free kicks.
“He’s the main player, the best player in the world and I want to learn from him.” (agencies)