Gareth Bale has been left distraught by the refusal of Daniel Levy, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, to consider a world record €100m – £86.3m – offer from Real Madrid.
Real have made their move for their long-time target and Bale is determined to complete the transfer. He wants to play Champions League football, which Tottenham cannot offer after they finished fifth in the Premier League last season, but the allure of Real runs some way deeper.
Bale recognises Real as one of the world's leading clubs, capable of competing for the grandest prizes. In the event of leaving Tottenham, whom he joined from Southampton in 2007, he has always dreamed of playing for the Bernabéu club.
He has enjoyed his six years at White Hart Lane, where he is feted by the supporters, but feels that the time is right to move on. It is impossible to dispute the value and service that he has given to the club, with last season being his best. The 24-year-old scored 26 goals in all competitions and swept the individual awards, being named as the PFA's player and young player of the year and the Football Writers' Association player of the year.
Bale is horrified by Levy's intransigence. The chairman has a reputation as a tough negotiator but to Bale, the offer from Real is one that should be impossible to refuse. The world record transfer is Cristiano Ronaldo's £80m move to Real from Manchester United in 2009.
Bale cannot believe that Levy is blocking what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with the chairman merely maintaining that his prized asset is not for sale. Bale's worth to André Villas-Boas's team is obvious but the Wales international feels that there comes a point when it is unfair to hold somebody to the terms of his contract. His deal has three years to run.
The situation has got under Bale's skin and it is threatening to turn ugly. He has had a glute muscle problem, which has restricted him in pre-season, but it has come to feel slightly convenient as he has been in no frame of mind to play. Bale featured in the club's opening friendly against Swindon Town but he missed the game against Colchester United and, although he travelled to Hong Kong for the Asia Trophy, he has not trained and he missed Tottenham's matches against Sunderland and South China.
Villas-Boas said after his team's 6-0 win over South China on Saturday that he expected Bale to return to training on Wednesday and be available for the friendly against Monaco at the Stade Louis II on Saturday. But it is highly unlikely that he will play.
Villas-Boas has been exasperated at the persistent questions over Bale's future but it felt as though his tone had changed at his press conference following the South China match. He has toed the line about Bale not being for sale and repeatedly stated that his information is that it is impossible for a deal to be struck with a rival club.
But in Hong Kong on Saturday, he was reticent, refusing to deny that Real had made a bid for Bale and also refusing to be drawn on reports from Spain that the player was pressing for the move. "I don't want to comment on anything like that," Villas-Boas said. "I cannot speak about anything." The manager gave the same response to a question about Real's conduct.
Tottenham used Bale at a promotional launch for their new kit at the beginning of the month and he talked of wanting to help the club finish in the Champions League places, which raised hopes that he could yet snub Real's advances.
Only on Friday, Villas-Boas said that talks were "ongoing" with Bale's representative about the possibility of the player signing a new deal at White Hart Lane. But there have been no such negotiations and Bale's mind is made up about his next move.
Tottenham continue to press ahead with business for the new season and they are close to finalising the transfer of the €30m-rated Valencia striker Roberto Soldado. They have already signed the midfielder Paulinho for a club-record £17m from Corinthians and the winger Nacer Chadli for £7m from FC Twente.
Additional reporting by Jamie Jackson in Hong Kong