There is no guarantee, of course, that it will work out. Football is littered with examples of British players who have moved abroad and found it rubs like sandpaper when, to use the old Ian Rush line, everyone speaks a foreign language. It is, however, fair to assume Gareth Bale will show a little more decorum at Real Madrid than Paul Gascoigne, another Tottenham export, managed at Lazio when the owner, Sergio Cragnotti, made one of his grand entrances to the training ground. "Tua figlia, grand tette" were the words with which Gazza greeted him. The translation: "Your daughter, big tits."
Presumably that is not a phrase Bale has picked up in the Spanish lessons he has been taking in advance of his first "Hala Madrid". Though at least Gascoigne, for everything that is said about him, did pick up the basics of a new language. He also had a nice way of breaking the ice with his Lazio team‑mates, deliberately getting there early on his first day and laying out 20 copies of Teach Yourself English on the dressing-room benches.
"They found that hilarious," he said later. Admittedly, turning up a few weeks later on a stolen motorcycle, sans helmet, was not such a good idea. Nor the time he found a snake in his apartment, whacked it over the head with a broom, then left the carcass in the pocket of a team-mate's jacket. But there have been plenty of others who have tried their luck abroad and done a lot worse.
Bale will be trying to break into a smallish pool of British players who have taken this route and fully flowered. That itself brings a whole load of pressure. His transfer fee, a world record, brings more and it is tempting to wonder what a footballer in this position must be experiencing in these moments. Excitement, naturally. A little impatience, perhaps. Maybe the odd flutter of insecurity.
David Beckham was 28 when he joined Madrid, a European Cup winner, with World Cup campaigns behind him, but still remembers that sense of awe when he was shown around the Bernabéu for the first time.
"Time to be brave," is how the former England captain described it. Bale is four years younger, preparing to walk the corridors of Di Stéfano, Puskas and Gento, not to mention Figo, Raúl and Zidane, as the most expensive player on the planet. That takes guts, even before he tries to wade through the politics of his new workplace, the hierarchy of the dressing room and the possibility the latest flexing of Madrid's financial muscle might have scuffed Cristiano Ronaldo's ego.
Nobody can be certain how Ronaldo will deal with being knocked off the front page of Marca or the passing of his transfer record. Put it this way: the first time the ball goes to Bale in training, his touch had better be good.
What Bale has in his favour is a left foot that can be both bludgeoning and beguiling, phenomenal speed and the kind of lacerating running style that can penetrate the most accomplished defence. Across Madrid, his portfolio has been played on a loop in the bars and restaurants for most of the summer. The slalom through Norwich's defence, hurdling challenges like someone jumping a series of invisible tripwires, finished with that slicing shot off the outside of his boot. There is the thunderbolt into the top corner at West Brom. Then the last-minute winner at West Ham: the spear of a shot, the victory run to André Villas-Boas and the overwhelming sense this is a footballer of uncommon gifts. He is, in other words, an ideal wearer of Madrid's colours. Yet there are other issues to take into account before his first keepy-uppies on the Bernabéu pitch and all those flashing bulbs on the presentation stage that Madrid – classic, jump-the-gun Madrid – already had in place last Friday.
Juan Román Riquelme was the star of Argentinian football when he joined Barcelona from Boca Juniors but his story demonstrates that knowing the language is only a part of it.
Riquelme became so homesick, he admitted several years later, that when he went back to Don Torcuato on his holidays he often cried when it was time to leave. Ferran Soriano, Barcelona's vice-president at the time, remembers someone from the club giving Riquelme a lift home and being shocked by the state of his apartment. "All there was in the living room was a table with a checked tablecloth and a few chairs. There was a container for mate and that was it." Soriano speaks of a player who "lived in total isolation in Barcelona, without his family, pulled down by permanent sadness".
Bale has a partner and a baby daughter, yet so did Michael Owen when he moved to Madrid from Liverpool and, like Bale, he was 24 at the time. He, too, appeared to have the keys to the football universe. Off the pitch, however, his memories of living in the Spanish capital are not good. "It was murder," he says.
Owen's complaint was that he was stuck in a hotel for the first three months and, after a bad start, never settled. "In the darker moments, I missed my family, my house, my old team-mates, the golfing, my dogs, the whole English package, even the rain." Beckham, on the other hand, embraced a new life and culture. Beckham also says Madrid bent over backwards to help him feel at home. Maybe the thing to remember here is that Owen had been operating inside a very structured football bubble. He admitted a few months ago he had no idea how to make a cup of tea, had never ironed a shirt or turned on a washing machine. Worldly, he is not.
Bale hopefully has a little bit more about him.
True, he is a fairly reserved character, as became apparent at the Football Writers' Association's player-of-the-year dinner, when he decided just before his starter that he did not feel confident enough to give the traditional acceptance speech and asked to change it to a question-and-answer format. Yet do not necessarily pin that down as shyness, or lack of personality, just an acknowledgement of his own strengths and weaknesses.
The important thing is that those strengths are considerable. His exit strategy has jarred and no doubt there will be Spurs supporters feeling raw about his, and Madrid's, tactics (when I mentioned last weekend they had ordered 50,000 Bale shirts, I didn't realise they would start selling them before the transfer was completed). Ultimately, though – and this is not intended to sound in any way patronising – Spurs should cherish the part they have played in his development. Bale accumulated goals last season from every angle and distance.
There were winners against Liverpool, West Brom, Newcastle, Lyon, West Ham, Swansea, Southampton and Sunderland. Other goals set up victories against Manchester United and Arsenal. More often than not, they were moments of devastating quality. They were a great footballer's goals.
Bale was the player – like Ronaldo, like Messi – the crowd always wanted on the ball. There were times when a game would go flat and he could lift them single-handed, picking up speed, driving forwards. "He was born to play for Spurs," they would sing at White Hart Lane. Something was expected of him every time.
And someone with those gifts should enjoy pulling on that Madrid shirt for the first time. Beckham's recollection is that it makes you feel extraordinarily tall.
Pellegrini lifting the Mancini clouds from City
yet you never had the impression he was fully satisfied. The consensus this time was that he would have found fault with Edin Dzeko's finishing.
Maybe he would have blamed Vincent Kompany's injury on playing for Belgium the previous week (the subject of a previous row that was never fully healed). Or he might have bitten on the fact Micah Richards missed the game after going down with a hamstring strain in training.
The same happened with Richards in City's title-winning season. Mancini started tapping his glass with his wedding ring. "Cristallo," he said. "Crystal! Fragile!" He was a fascinating guy to be around and it is a pity that everything became so bitter and twisted. Yet the stories that have come out since make it increasingly apparent why City moved him out (and would have done, even if they had won the FA Cup) to bring in Manuel Pellegrini.
Mancini, to clarify, is someone I admired at City. Yet it is tempting to wonder whether the power went to his head. He ordered that a disabled lavatory was knocked down and turned into his own personal bidet. One of his entourage would – no joke – take a hairdryer to Mancini's sweater and jacket to make sure they were the perfect temperature for when he came in off the training ground. The same guy would drive in second gear behind Mancini as the manager set off through the country lanes on the bike ride home to Alderley Edge. When Mancini grew tired, he would put his bike in the car and get a lift the rest of the way.
More importantly, his style of management had lurched from being occasionally abrasive to almost permanently confrontational. Journalists covering the club knew the atmosphere was bad. What has since become clear is it was far worse than anyone thought.
The vibe now is entirely different. When was the last time you read about controversy, at City? You haven't since Mancini left in May. Yes, we are still in the early stages of the season but City, under their new manager, feels like a happy and sensible place again – and players generally do a lot better when they are happy. They are going to take some stopping this season.