Advice to Gareth Bale: 'throw your heart and soul into Spain'
The advice comes from Gary Lineker who, like Steve McManaman, made a success of moving to Spain
FOR every Steve McManaman or Gary Lineker - two British footballers who thrived overseas - there is an Ian Rush or Paul Gascoigne. That pair headed to the Continent - Rush to Juventus and Gazza to Lazio - at the top of their game but neither made much of an impact.
Gascoigne offended Italians with a string of vulgarities - the highlight being when he told Lazio president Sergio Cragnotti: "Your daughter has big tits". At least Gazza said it in Italian, a lingo that proved beyond the grasp of Ian Rush who returned to Liverpool after one season in Turin allegedly complaining: "I couldn't settle in Italy - it was like living in a foreign country."
Rush denies having ever uttered the complaint, though in a 2005 interview with The Observer he did admit: "I never realised Turin was such an industrial area. There wasn't much to do."
Which brings us to Garath Bale, whose move from Tottenham to Real Madrid in a record €100m (£85.3m) deal was confirmed yesterday.
There'll be plenty for the 24-year-old to do in Madrid - particularly as he'll be rich beyond his wildest dreams, earning £300,000 a week - but it will all be done under the glare of the media spotlight.
The young Welshman shuns the limelight but in the eyes of the world's press - particularly, one imagines, the British tabloids - he's just forfeited his right to privacy by becoming the most expensive player in the history of football.
So how will he cope with his move to Madrid, and the 24/7 attention that it will bring? In a BBC Sport profile, Bale is described as a young man who "does not fit the stereotype of the world's most expensive footballer. He does not drink alcohol, he is scared of spiders and he visits his mum in south Wales when he gets time off".
Then there's his other half, his long-term girlfriend and mother of his young child, Emma Rhys-Jones, a childhood sweetheart who is reassuringly down-to-earth in comparison to most WAGS.
Throughout his career, Bale has avoided scandal with the ease he avoids opponents, something the BBC says is down to his upbringing. The son of a retired school caretaker and office worker, Bale grew up in Cardiff in a loving and stable family. "His mum and dad were very, very supportive," said Gwyn Morris, his former PE teacher. "He had the full package - the ability and the right attitude. He's still very humble and that's a very strong part of his personality."
Bale will need to draw on all that strength in the coming weeks and months as he adapts to his new status. Already there are rumours that the man Bale has supplanted as the world's most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo, will harbour a "jealousy" towards the Welshman. True or not, Bale will no longer be top dog, as he was at White Hart Lane, but just one more ego in a dressing-room already teeming with vanity.
BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker says there's no doubt Bale has the footballing skills to become a success in Madrid - but has he got it up top? "The only question now is whether he's got the mental strength to be able to cope with such a big move and the spotlight that will be immense over there in Spain," said Lineker, who scored 42 goals in 103 games for Barcelona between 1986 and 1989.
Lineker's advice to Bale is "to throw your heart and soul" into the move, which means learning the language and embracing the culture, as he did in Barcelona and McManaman did at Real Madrid during his four-year stay. Few expected McManaman to last long at the Bernabeu when he arrived from Liverpool in 1999 but he stayed four years in the Spanish capital, helping Real to two Champions League triumphs and two La Liga titles.
"Spain for me… was an opportunity to go and explore," McManaman said recently. "I wanted to go to a foreign country and learn different things, and that's exactly what I did. I made hundreds and hundreds of new friends and the fact I still spend a lot of the time in Spain shows what an impact it had on me."
If Bale takes a similar approach – and he made a good start today by speaking a few words of Spanish when he was presented to fans (above) at the Bernabeu - Real Madrid will have another British star to revere. ·