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Transfers

Real Madrid break bank buying Spurs' Gareth Bale

Real Madrid have dug deep to buy Welsh winger Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur. Reports on the transfer fee vary, but Bale becomes either the second-most expensive footballer in history, or the most.

Gareth Bale signed a six-year deal with Real Madrid and was expected to be officially presented in the Spanish capital on Monday. The deal went through barely a day before the transfer window closes, after months of back and forth.

The transfer fee was not officially disclosed, but English language sources reported that the 24-year-old Bale cost Madrid a world record 100 million euros ($132 million). Spanish media put the fee at 91 million euros, which would fall just short of the 94 million euros Madrid paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.

"I have had six very happy years at Tottenham but it's the right time to say goodbye," Bale said. "I know many players talk of their desire to join the club of their boyhood dreams, but I can honestly say, this is my dream come true."

Real Madrid are bolstering their side after finishing as runners-up to arch rivals Barcelona in Spain's top flight and losing in the semifinals of the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund.

Tottenham fell just short of Champions League football last season, helping fuel speculation that Bale might seek a side where he could compete at club football's highest level.

Spurs have already spent heavily during the summer window, signing Roberto Soldado, Christian Eriksen, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela - all capped internationals - and others.

The deadly ex-defender

A product of the successful youth academy at Southampton, Bale moved to Tottenham as a teenager in 2007, already commanding an eight-figure transfer fee from the north London club. He has spent six seasons in London, graduating into Spurs' standout performer. Having begun as a defensive player at left back, Bale's growing offensive impact could not be ignored; at first he moved up to the left wing and then ultimately took on more of a roving attacking role.

Bale struggled with injuries in his first years with Spurs. Fully fit early in his fourth season with the club, he sent a Champions League message none could ignore, scoring a heroic hat trick against Inter Milan as Spurs lost a thriller 4-3 at the San Siro in October 2010.

Defensively capable, tall, strong, pacey, dangerous in the air and with a hammer of a left foot, the Welsh international has fewer weaknesses with each passing season. His attacking record suggests as much; in the previous campaign Bale scored 21 Premier League goals, more than twice as many as in any previous season of his career. However, he also logged fewer assists than any season since his days in defense.

msh/pfd (AP, dpa, Reuters)