This week, Tottenham Hotspur footballer Gareth Bale was the subject of an £85million bid from Real Madrid. That's the most amount of money ever lodged for a player in the sport's history. What on earth is going on I ask?
Never has the sport been so distanced from its viewing public. £85million is an eye-watering amount of money, a figure so huge it is difficult to even conceive. And yet, the Spanish titans have offered it without fuss, and it looks like they will get their man. Tottenham are sensible enough to recognize the absurdity of such a bid.
How can a single human being command such a seismic amount of money? Sports economists will point to Bale's marketability. Yet, really think about it for just a second. Pause and absorb the incredible amount of money being offered.
For me, there is a moral discomfort around this whole saga. Lets pretend everything in the world was undecided, markets hadn't formed, and economies were being nurtured. Lets now say football transfers never existed. If a player wanted to play for a different club he should merely wait until the expiration of his contract, or negotiate personally with his current club.
Now, bear with me. Let us say the world's most valuable human commodities were not sports stars, but doctors. Lets say the world's pre-eminent heart surgeon was being transferred from the Mayo Clinic in New York to the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. The transfer fee? You guessed it, £85million. Now, the Cleveland Clinic is banking on him performing surgeries on the world's elite, commanding silly money each time. He would be their most prized asset, just as Bale would be for Real Madrid (sorry Ronaldo).
Would anyone begrudge these doctors and these transfer fees? Probably not, and why is that? It is because doctors save people's lives. They have devoted their lives to studying the human body, with the intention of fixing people of their ailments. Football may be a team sport, yet their participants are highly individual. Their focus is on reaching a high level of fitness and the mastery of a technical craft. The two are polar opposites.
Nevertheless, there doesn't appear to be a ceiling in sight for football. The numbers are only going to continue to sore. Wages are staggering, as are the transfer fees being commanded. What do the season ticket holders think of it all? Well, what choice do they have? Football may not be the people's sport anymore, yet it remains the most popular. Formula One, tennis and golf may forever be associated with the middle classes, yet has football joined them?
What ever happened to buying a cheap ball, using your jumpers as goal posts and having a kick around in the park? Players like Gareth Bale will probably remember such times, yet as he ushers in a new era of freaky football finances, those memories may become a distant haze.