Football: Blatter says Bale deal is free market in action

Football: Blatter says Bale deal is free market in action

ZURICH, Canton of Zurich - Real Madrid's record outlay of a reported 101 million euros (S$170.25 million, £86 million) for Gareth Bale is a sign of the free market in action, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said Tuesday.

Pressed on the symbolism of the incredible transfer fee to bring the Welshman from Londoners Tottenham Hotspur to the Spanish capital, Blatter declined to comment directly.

"You'll have to ask Real Madrid," he told reporters at FIFA's headquarters in the Swiss city of Zurich.

The Bale deal, which comes as Spain is locked in the deepest economic crisis in a generation, has been described by Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino as showing "a lack of respect" given the current climate.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, has described it as a "joke".

But Blatter said he was reminded of the debate over Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo's £80 million move from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009.

"At the same time, in Sotheby's in London, there was an auction where they sold a painting of Spanish artist Picasso's Blue Period for 50 million pounds, which at the time was US$100 million," he said.

"At that time I said the man who acquired this painting, he will put it somewhere under closed circuit, because it's dangerous to lose it. But Ronaldo, you'll see at least twice a week in a stadium.

"So is the price high or not high? I think this is the market, and we cannot intervene in this market," he insisted.

Real Madrid are top players on the financial front thanks to deals on TV rights and sponsorship, among other revenue streams, and a global brand in their own right.

The Bale deal is just the latest in a string of "galactico" signings Real president Florentino Perez has made during two spells in charge of the club, in a drive to boost their success on the field and commercial revenue off it.

Auditors Deloitte's latest Money League report showed that Real had become the first football club to generate more than 500 million euros a year, whilst Forbes ranked them as the most valuable sports team in the world last month with an estimated value of US$3.3 billion.

"Many would say the country is poor or indebted, but in football you always find money," said Blatter.

"If a player is the value of that, I doubt. But I cannot stop this market," he added.

But such price tags raise the stakes on the pitch, he noted, saying: "Gareth Bale can prove now that he's better than Ronaldo."

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