Welsh football’s leading light Gareth Bale may be about to become part of an exclusive club of British players to have played for the most famous football club in the world.
The Cardiff-born winger has been heavily linked with a massive £81m move to 10-time European Cup winners Real Madrid.
Should he move, Bale will follow in the footsteps of the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen and Steve McManaman in learning a new lifestyle and culture in the Spanish capital.
After joining the Spanish giants in 2003, Becks spent three months living in the five star Santo Mauro hotel – racking up a £433,000 bill.
He and wife Victoria, known as La Spice Pija locally, eventually moved their family to a £4.5m, five-bedroomed villa – dubbed Casa Beckham – in a walled estate housed in the exclusive La Moraleja area of the city.
Set in two acres, the mansion had an outdoor heated swimming pool, tennis courts, a small football pitch and a play area.
Bale may also want to go house-hunting in La Moraleja – as many of Madrid’s current players, including Sergio Ramos and Mesut Ozil, live there.
The enclave is described as “Spain’s Beverly Hills” and is home to some of Spain’s wealthiest people with sprawling mansions and several luxury golf courses, such as La Moraleja Golf Club Madrid.
With a reported £8.5m-a-year contract offer on the table from the Spanish giants, Bale could take his pick of the properties in amongst actors, politicians and the top businessmen who live there.
The district is also home to some of Spain’s elite private schools, which may make it a likely destination for the 24-year-old who became a proud father to Alba Violet earlier this year.
Elsewhere in the north east of Madrid, is the Mirasierra district of the city where Brazlilian defender Marcelo lives, and the Sanitas La Moraleja Hospital where Real Madrid fans hope Bale will undergo a medical before any potential move.
The club’s impressive Valdebebas training complex is also nearby.
Other popular spots for players include the Las Rozas neighbourhood where Portuguese defender Pepe lives and the Boadilla del Monte where Iker Casillas resides.
Cristiano Ronaldo lives in La Finca, in the super exclusive area of Pozuelo de Alarcón, where he was rumoured to have put his 5.4m euro Spanish villa up for sale last month.
Director of football Zinedine Zidane, who has been urging Bale to ask his current employers at Tottenham for a transfer, had his home designed by architect-to-the-celebrities, Joaquín Torres.
Other players who live in the La Finca vicinity include Karim Benzema, Kaka, Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira.
According to ex-England international McManaman’s wife, Victoria, a barrister and law lecturer who taught at the Autonomous University of Madrid, the so-called ‘galacticos’ are treated “like royalty” in the city.
She said: “They are adored. Everyone makes a huge fuss. As for the wives, the press wants to know about each player’s basic domestic set-up, but, after that, they leave the wives alone.”
One example of the kind of attention the club’s heroes receive came on one of the McManamans’ first shopping trips in their four-year sojourn which began in August 1999.
“We arrived at El Corte Inglés [a department store] needing things for the house,” Victoria said.
“As soon as we walked in, word got about. Within a few minutes, we had the store manager, the floor manager, his assistant and a translator all trying to help us buy an ironing board.”
“They showed us a special super deluxe model, with hooks to hang things on. It looked like a space ship. I said to Steven ‘Let’s get out of here’.”
To take refuge from the scrutiny, Bale could hang out in La Latina, a neighbourhood in the old part of the city, where the players can be found enjoying a siesta in restaurants or cafes.
The players’ favourite restaurants are said to be Mesón Txistu and sister eaterie Asador Donostiarra, where they are often pictured, and Beckham often returns to eat there every time he goes back to Madrid.
Both specialise in Basque cuisine, especially meats.
Boutique shopping and designer brands in the city come in the form of Dolce Gabbana, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, where many of the Madrid players get their matchday luggage.
And for a sight of true Spanish culture, Bale could venture to Las Ventas, Madrid’s bullfighting ring where Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas are regulars during bullfighting season.
For Victoria McManaman, it was the perfect experience.
Speaking after returning to Britian, she said: “There were no downsides. If I could do it again, I would. Like a shot.”