Tottenham have finally opened talks with Real Madrid over the 115 million euros (100 million pounds) sale of Gareth Bale, with club officials increasingly convinced the Welshman will leave.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has been adamant all summer that the club’s prized asset would not be sold under any circumstances.
However, Madrid’s concerted campaign has borne fruit in the last couple of days, with their most recent tactic — a warning to Bale and his advisors that it is ‘now or never’ for him to force a move — prompting the 24-year-old to privately tell Levy that he wants to join the Spanish giants.
That has led the Spurs chairman, whose ‘no sale’ policy had been fully backed by owner Joe Lewis, to open dialogue with Real in the last 24 hours, with a meeting between Levy and Madrid president Florentino Perez expected to take place on August 6 in Florida.
Even now Levy will only sanction a sale if the deal — cash only — smashes the world record 91m euros fee Real paid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
Tottenham are keen on Blancos left-back Fabio Coentrao, in particular, while Angel di Maria is also seen by many as a good replacement for Bale.
But big-money player exchange deals are a complicated matter, and Levy is keen that he realises the full monetary value for a player who still has three years left on his contract, preferring to keep any follow-up bid for Coentrao and Di Maria separate.
Though it is not a foregone conclusion that the transfer will go ahead, Levy and manager Andre Villas-Boas are now making plans to bolster the squad in Bale’s absence.