It has been seven full seasons since Tottenham Hotspur sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid and added seven players in return. So how did Spurs do in exchange for Bale?
Erik Lamela is the only Tottenham Hotspur player left from the summer of 2013, when Daniel Levy and Spurs cashed in on Gareth Bale for a then-record $111.1 million.
While Tottenham sold seven players that season for $148.75 million total — including Jermain Defoe, Clint Dempsey, and Scott Parker — their combined total of less than $20 million was dwarfed by Bale’s fee in a summer when Spurs spent some $134.78 million on seven new players meant to replace Bale and transform the squad for years to come.
With the possibility of a Bale return being discussed by fans, it is time to look back on what was.
Seasons and trophies
Starting with the two easiest areas of comparison, Gareth Bale left Tottenham Hotspur to win trophies and that he has at Real Madrid. In his seven seasons at Madrid, the Welsh attacker has been part of 14 trophy-winning teams.
Those 14 trophies included four UEFA Champions Leagues (including three straight wins from 2015-2018), four FIBA Club World Cups, three UEFA Supercups, two Spanish League Championships, and the Spanish Cup and Spanish Super Cup each once.
During that same time Spurs have earned one Audi Cup, if we want to count the preseason. Good news for Spurs, while Real has only gotten seven seasons out of Bale, Spurs got nearly 25 seasons of service from the seven players purchased in replacement.
However, the reality is while Spurs were competitive over that time, Real were champions and ultimately as a fan that is where I want to see Tottenham be, champions winning trophies — advantage Bale and Madrid.
Matches and minutes
Since leaving Tottenham, Bale has played nearly 18,000 minutes and maybe as many holes of golf in Madrid. Alternatively, Spurs received more than 57,000 minutes of service from the seven players purchased with the Bale funds. That said, despite the lack of playing time under Zinedine Zidane over the last couple of seasons, Bale’s minutes on a per match basis averaged higher than the seven Spurs combined.
Whereas, the Spurs magnificent seven have made some 868 appearances for the club, totalling 57,422 minutes for an average of 65.35 minutes per appearance, Bale has averaged 66.70 minutes per appearance across some 251 matches for Madrid. Thus, on average Bale put in a longer shift the entirety of the magnificent seven combined.
Ultimately, Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, and Nacer Chadli all averaged less minutes per appearance than Bale. While Vlad Chiriches averaged some 82 minutes per appearance, Chadli’s 54 minutes per appearance and Lamela’s 56 minutes brings the average way down. Etienne Capoue was at 67 minutes, nearly dead even with Bale, while Christian Eriksen, along with Chiriches, had higher averages.
Beyond minutes is matches, and while Tottenham have gotten some 868 matches and 622 starts from the seven players combined, Eriksen was the only individual player to play more matches and have more starts than Bale.
Eriksen, like Lamela and Bale, has had nearly seven full seasons to accumulate those numbers and started more games (265) for Spurs than Bale has played for Madrid (251). Given the numbers and averages, the matches and minutes were about even.
Production and points
Thank goodness Spurs signed Christian Eriksen that summer or this category would be ugly. While Bale blows everyone away individually, having scored some 105 goals for Madrid since leaving N17, Eriksen has held his own with 69 goals. If you add in the 33 from Lamela you have 102 right there, nearly equal Bale, without including 25 goals from Chadli, another 16 from Soldado — the man could take a penalty — and 10 more from Paulinho.
In total, the 157 goals from the seven players does top Bale’s 105, but man, 105 goals from one player is just incredible. If you add in another 68 assists on top of those goals, Bale contributed to 173 goals at Madrid. While Eriksen’s combined 158 goals + assists (69 goals, 89 assists), puts him top in assists and second overall combined, it is still 15 goals behind Bale, which is a terrific season for many players.
Bale was first in goals and second only to Eriksen in assists. Lamela has had 47 assists during this time, but that is still 21 less than the Welsh winger, a sizable margin and more than Chiriches, Soldado, and Paulinho combined.
Despite the best efforts from Eriksen and Lamela, it is hard to argue that Bale was not better with production. In fact, Bale as AVERAGED .84 G+A per 90 in his seven seasons at Madrid and while Paulinho was not bad with a .62 average for Spurs, as a group, the total is .38 per 90, a number more than doubled by Bale’s figure.
Player rankings from the summer sale
When it comes to stack ranking all the players from the Summer of Bale, it is easy enough to pick the first three, but things get much cloudier from there. But here is the list anyway.
Clearly, Gareth Bale was the best player sold or bought in the summer and unsurprisingly has had the most production and trophies in return. While he has had his challenges at Madrid, the trophies, the paycheck and all that golf seem to suit him fine and Madrid has certainly gotten their money’s worth in terms of success.
For Spurs, the great Dane Christian Eriksen was clearly the best player that arrived in the Summer of Bale. Over six-and-a-half seasons with Spurs, Eriksen consistently produced goals as a scorer and playmaker. A primary catalyst for the club during his tenure, corner kicks aside, not sure what more we could have asked for from Eriksen. He was a great player for Spurs.
Erik Lamela has always split the fanbase. Incredibly and undeniably talented, but the best ability a footballer can often have is availability, which Lamela has not always been able to produce. Injured as much as he has played, Lamela has started less than 60 percent of his appearances at Spurs and has missed well over 80 matches over seven seasons. Even with another season at Tottenham, it is hard to see Lamela ever passing Eriksen on this list.
The young attacker from FC Twente was kind of unknown when he came to Tottenham, however, over three seasons with the club, Nacer Chadli certainly left a mark. A bursting attacking presence, his 25 goals and 16 assists reflect a productive player, who at under $9 million was a real bargain buy. Never quite as quality of a finisher as needed, Chadli had his moments.
It was difficult to decide between Paulinho and Roberto Soldado here, as both had moments with Spurs and had a little production. However, Paulinho was not necessarily brought in to score goals the way Soldado did, so his disappointment as a Spur does not hit quite as hard. The Brazilian midfielder got off to a flying start with Spurs, then a red card and an injury derailed his progress and he never fully adapted under the coaching philosophy of Mauricio Pochettino.
His 10 goals and seven assists over two seasons gave us glimpses, but a full picture was just never seen. While not the flashiest Brazilian midfielder, Paulinho brought heart to the team, until he did not and became expendable. To me, Paulinho not making it was the biggest failure of the bunch and playing at Barcelona with Messi only two seasons later proved it.
Roberto Soldado was brought in to do one thing — score goals. Having scored nearly 30 in La Liga the previous season, Soldado was a proven goal scorer. Unfortunately, that production did not fully translate in the Premier League and Soldado managed only 16 goals over two seasons, with five of those 16 coming from the penalty spot.
While Soldado was good with penalties, it was probably the one he missed against Manchester City that most people will remember and probably sealed his fate at the club. Having dealt with extreme personal tragedy during his time with Spurs, I am not sure if Soldado mentally had a chance. Disappointing for himself and the club, this one just did not work.
Vlad Chiriches came to Tottenham somewhat unknown, but also the captain of his native Romania men’s national team, so he had to be okay, right? Chiriches had some talent, but probably not quite as much as he thought.
Willing to try and dribble out from anywhere – a bold approach – may work, but not as the center-half. Ultimately, poor touches and bad decision making – along with athleticism not quite up to the Premier League – left Chiriches a bit below the level needed for success.
Frenchman Etienne Capoue did the least of the seven Bale buys for Spurs. With the fewest appearances, starts, minutes, goals, and assists it is hard to argue none of the seven made less of an impact that Capoue.
Like Chiriches, Capoue was a bit too loose with the ball at his feet to be truly effective in the Premier League. And while like Nacer Chadli, Capoue did find a home in the EPL after leaving Spurs, he never reached the level of individual or team success predicted when he was signed for over $12 million from Toulouse.
Bale, Spurs and Summer of 2013
In the end, Real Madrid and Gareth Bale clearly won the summer of 2013. The trophies and production were worth the cost to Madrid and the overall contribution to Spurs – while strong – probably was not what would have been received if Bale had stayed. Christian Eriksen was a great Spur and Lamela has been a good one, but Bale – despite the love loss with the fans – has been all-world and has won everything one can imagine.