It is only human to feel like reaching for the hot tap and the razorblades every time you read the inevitable headline, but there is now another pun almost as bad, almost as forced, and almost as ubiquitous: a challenger to the Real Deal that leaves you slitting at your wrists and shouting: "But you don't even say it like that!" Ignore the way it is spelled, ignore the way it is actually said, and Gareth Bale's surname becomes "value", "merit", or "enough." It is basically Spanish for: worth it.
In Spanish, b and v are aurally interchangeable, rendering Real Madrid's new world record signing Gareth Vale, said more Bah-lay than Bay-yul. There have been question marks over what the real deal is, with Spurs saying it's a world record and Madrid saying it is not, and debates over another, inescapable question: €100m? Gareth Bale? Is Gareth worth it? Is Gareth good enough?
On Saturday night's evidence, when Bale scored on his debut and Madrid drew 2-2 at Villarreal, he might just be. Marca was the first to go for it : "Porque lo Bale," the headline ran. Because he's worth it. Their cover went down a similar route, with a line that has a double meaning: "Bale y punto", translates as "he's good enough, end of story" and "Bale, and one point."
Inside, Hugo Cerezo had enjoyed the opening night: "Because he's worth it," Cerezo wrote, "that's why this kid from Cardiff made his debut for Madrid after just three training sessions, because the great players are destined to have great starts, because Madrid's new No11 always dreamed of playing and scoring in white … despite the draw at full time, Bale will have slept well, happy to have fulfilled his dream of playing for Real Madrid and scoring a goal. After all, the really, really lovely thing is not to be a star but to be a star for Real Madrid."
There were some doubts and a little caution but mostly they agreed, even if much of the attention was taken by the extraordinary performance by goalkeeper Diego López, who saved Bale from enduring a debut defeat with eight saves. AS's cover ran with: "Bale scored! ... And Diego López saved." El País's headline noted: "Villarreal play the football, Bale scores the goal."
Marca's match ratings gave López 7.5 out of 10; Bale got 6.0, only behind Modric and Carvajal among the outfield players. "He did not have an especially brilliant day but he put his team back in the game just when they were at their worst and he will improve," it ran. El País described him as decisive with his goal despite having had "little participation". Just how much participation was revealed in the stats in AS: "four dribbles and one spectacular sprint." There had been a shot too, a "knuckleball" as they're now calling it.
"He proved he is physically impressive," wrote the paper's editor, Alfredo Relaño. "He gave the night one very dangerous shot, a couple of extraordinary runs and a goal. For a newcomer, he's in very good shape." Luis Nieto described him as: "good, bordering on magnificent." And the paper's resident mad Madridista Tomás Roncero was having another of his "moments", calling him "The Prince of Wales": "Bale responded to the enormous expectations that his huge transfer have awakened. He took his goal like a centre-forward and did one run that was like Usain Bolt. His childhood dreams have come true, exactly."
The former Real Madrid youth teamer and now lead singer in the band Pignoise Alvaro Benito insisted: "He looked better than I expected. He was committed, involved, not shy when it came to taking risks. It was an intense, high-pace game and he did not look out of place."
For once, the Catalan columnists agreed with their counterparts in the capital. Well, sort of. Bale did not look out of place. But this was no compliment. As usual, the partisan pro-Barcelona press were not exactly looking on the bright side of life in Madrid. Sport described him as "looking a long way from his physical best" and called Ronaldo: "theoretically a team-mate," gleefully foreseeing conflicts to come.
As for Jaume Miserachs in El Mundo Deportivo, Bale's high-five greeting with the Portuguese before the game was "pretty much the only time they combined", although the goal did begin to justify the "scandalous" transfer fee. The Welshman had settled in well, Miserachs sniped: "Gareth Bale took just four minutes to realise what this is all about. The four minutes it took him to learn his first lesson of Madridismo: complain about referees."