Spanish champions Real Madrid have fired the opening round in the race to sign Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale. The Daily Mail cites a report in Spanish newspaper Marca, which confirms an opening bid of £33m has been lodged with the White Hart Lane club. And, ominously for Spurs, Marca's report claims Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is taking a personal interest in signing the Welsh winger.

Front page of Spanish newspaper Marca on 28 December, 2012

Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas has already been quoted as admitting it will likely be hard for the Premier League club to hold on to Bale, once Madrid begin transfer talks in earnest. And the player himself has confirmed he is interested in a move to Spain. However, AVB has also stressed a January deal for the Welsh star would be "impossible".

The Gareth Bale-Real Madrid saga, brief as it is so far, is already beginning to assume proportions similar to discussions resulting in the transfer of playmaker Luka Modric in the summer. The Croatian international eventually joined the Santiago Bernabeu for a fee the BBC reported was in the region of £30m.

However, the transfer was a controversial one, with the Croatian national team coach Igor Stimac and former Spurs' midfielder Niko Kranjcar both heavily criticising the Premier League club's chairman, Daniel Levy, for his initial refusal to allow the transfer.

Gareth Bale

The deal did eventually go through though and confirmation of the transfer was immediately followed by speculation, according to a Daily Mail report, the terms of the agreement included Madrid having first refusal on Bale's services. That was later denied by the London club.

Nevertheless, insofar as Bale's potential transfer is concerned a report by ESPN in October stated Levy placed a £60m price tag on Bale's head... a sum of money calculated to scare most clubs away.

"We recognise he is one of our major assets, but there are no release clauses, and a player of his dimension has a market value that is unattainable for most other clubs," AVB was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

Unfortunately for Tottenham, Madrid is not as most clubs are. And considering they paid such enormous sums of money to prise Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka away from Manchester United and AC Milan respectively, Marca's report that the Spaniards have earmarked £56m from future budgets towards the signing of Gareth Bale.