Overseas: a tough place to go


Pleat, whose career took in spells in Nottingham AND Luton, bids to expand his horisons even further with friends

To the mind of David Pleat, Gareth Bale is too young to move to Madrid; at just 24 years of age, naive Gareth has designs on prematurely relinquishing his mother’s bosom and mixing it up in Spain.

“I doubt he’d find it easy. Many have failed when they have moved overseas,” Pleat said, demonstrating a quite exhilarating zest for life.

On this logic Bale would be gambling on the success of his playing career if he moved to Ireland. Pleat imbues ‘overseas’ with a sense of foreboding usually reserved for undiscovered lands, for which pioneering explorers gamble everything on the presence of food, morality and E! TV.

As I said, Bale is 24. To put that in some sort of perspective, at 20 Alexander the Great was the ruler of Macedonia, and at 25, he had created a city in his own name. The Premier League itself is chocker with players who left home as youths in a bid to become professional footballers; as far as intrepid exploration goes, kicking a football in Madrid for a few hours a day is hardly ballsy, and at most ‘a bit different’.

However, Pleat does feel Bale will be old enough… Next year. Agreed – I think we can all agree that the transformation between the 25th and 26th year is the most drastic in a man’s life.

Where the green 24-year-old sees optimism and unbound possibility owing to his being at a physical zenith and possessing an intrinsically positive regard for his fellow man, the 25-year-old sees only sadness and regret, forever hampered by chronic bitterness owing to a gruelling 52 extra weeks of existence. Steep decline in sexual prowess; a plethora of failed marriages; thwarted career ambitions; the unwritten novel; abandoned trips to Thorpe Park – 25 really is the new 40.

To be fair to Pleat, while he doesn’t seem to have spoken a word to Bale and was merely giving the standard ex-pro from-the-bog interview, entirely bereft of considered thought and nuance, one suspects that with his track record he more than any would know the specific differences between a 24 and a 25-year-old.

Having shown such a penchant for the arbitrary one could quite easily imagine the erstwhile Spurs boss losing his rag at things like The 100 Greatest Adverts, The 100 Greatest Football Players, or any other vacuous telly evening hosted by some appalling T4 commodity. He no doubt looks to eat in one of the world’s 100 Greatest Restaurants, lent its name by one of the 100 Greatest Chefs, on the banks of a river in one of 100 Greatest Cities.

This unfounded fixation on age also suggests that he’s one of those who attributes John Terry letting a harmless through-ball roll out of play for a goal kick to experience, and any defender-induced goal to David de Gea’s naivety. Pleat himself is 68, meaning that he wakes up in the morning assured that he knows slightly more about everything than a 67-year-old, but slightly less than someone of 69.

Quite where on the globe he imagines Madrid to reside one can only guess, but I’d imagine it’s a two-and-a-half hour flight from London, which is like going to Newcastle but getting there an hour earlier than you expected. David envisions Gareth walking into the dressing room on his first morning, only to be brutally bombarded with leeks by a Spanish cabal as they taunt him over his pale complexion.

As language is the only means of communicating with our fellow man, Bale would find himself In Crisis sooner rather than later. His 25th birthday in Madrid would turn into an eerily existential affair, what with there being no phone signal on the continent and commercial air travel soon to be rendered illegal. He’ll be sat in a cafe in a deserted Plaza Mayor during the siesta – a cultural habit no one will have been able to communicate to him, or that he’d be able to comprehend even if they had – as a begrudging senorita brings him a magdalena with an unlit candle on top, and the Spanish for “Fuck Off Gareth” written in ornate icing.

That he has already spent a few years plying his trade with Luka Modric seems to have been forgotten by Pleat. After all, the diminutive midfielder is Croatian, and seemingly never spoke a word of English in his time at Spurs – I doubt he’d remember Gareth at all, and one assumes he just buried his head in a suitcase full of fifties whenever he wasn’t playing football.

Perennial wild child Michael Owen also threw his euros into the mix: “Any player going from over here to Spain, it’s a lot different to what you imagine. It’s a slow pace of life. I was in a hotel for six months with a young child. It’s very difficult.”

Buy a house Michael. Just buy a house. Bale comes across as notably more intelligent and grounded than the average Premier League ambassador, and strikes you as the sort of bloke who’s got friends. I can’t think of one group of football fans in the entire world who feel any sort of genuine affection for Michael Owen, so for that reason I’m going to confidently assume no one came over to visit him. Judging by the quote above, even his wife couldn’t be arsed.

Tottenham aren’t playing Champions League football next season, while Real Madrid are. An injury could quite conceivably end Real’s interest in him. It makes absolutely no sense for him to postpone a move away from north London, and if it wasn’t Daniel Levy in charge, one suspects he’d already be there; the prices being quoted sound more than fair. If Levy was 52 he’d understand.


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