There has been constant speculation regarding Gareth Bale’s future at Real Madrid for the past two seasons. It has been completely unavoidable – the back pages, TV debate shows and Bale’s interviews have been dominated by speculation. Yet each time, Bale stays in the Spanish capital.
The player’s injury record as long as the Manzanares river and the simply ridiculous release clause of €480m have detracted potential suitors from making a move. Even at market value, Los Blancos are unlikely to cut ties for less than the €95m they shelled out for his signature from Tottenham Hotspur back in 2013.
Despite these deterrents, Bale who has four Champions League medals to his name, has run out of time at the Bernabeu and a swift exit is the most likely scenario now. Bale’s story in Madrid has been packed to the brim with success, magical moments and a fair few spectacular goals.
14 trophies and 76 goals (including two Champions League winning strikes) means that the 29-year-old can look back on his time at Madrid with pride. You don’t become the most valuable player in the world at the time for nothing, and life before the Spanish club was complete bliss for the Welshman. On the pitch, Bale was the big fish in a small pond. The team was centred around him and everyone looked at him for inspiration. Need a last-minute goal? Bale delivered.
In Madrid, Bale had a relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo to maintain. Keeping the Portuguese forward on his side was imperative. But at times Bale’s performances were often overshadowed by Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and from 2017, Marco Asensio too. Throw a gold fish into a pond with a cat fish and it’ll be eaten.
Bale’s first season in the white of Real Madrid, was impressive to say the least. 22 goals in 42 appearances. Virtually injury fee and his first Champions League medal. Not bad for a 23-year-old from South Wales.
Since then, injuries have been a recurring problem – season after season, leaving fans frustrated and Florentino Perez red faced. Bale and his team mates are now playing under their fifth manager in six seasons and that sort of merry go round can have a negative effect on players.
But at Madrid, players including Bale must have gotten used to adapting themselves to differing training methods by now. Bale’s successes at the club are clear, but there have been enough controversies to trump any medal since he arrived in the capital. He has been constantly scapegoated by supporters, with some even attacking his car as he left the ground after a game.
But most recently, Bale is staring down the barrel of a possible 12-match suspension because of a gesture he made toward fans during Madrid’s recent 3-1 derby win over Atletico. La Liga have now asked the Spanish Football Federation to punish the 29-year-old.
A statement on La Liga’s official website reads: ‘’Bale moves his right arm up towards his head in a signal of provocation towards the fans, creating a possibly obscene gesture by moving his other arm and striking halfway up his right arm.”
That gesture is considered offensive in Spain and is akin to raising the middle finger. They always say you should leave on a high. That high was the fourth Champions League winners medal in Kiev. Not a year later, completely trophy-less and with a cloud over your head.
A new look Real, hasn’t helped. It’s a transitional period at present. Julen Lopetegui was replaced by Santiago Solari and summer transfer activity was far from inspiring. Ronaldo left for Turin, Thibaut Courtois came in without a need for a goalkeeper with Keylor Navas more than competent. Then the club opted to re-sign Mariano Diaz over Eden Hazard who was keen on a move, following his World Cup exploits.
Alongside this, a string of youngsters have needed time to bed-in. Marcos Llorente, Vinicius Junior and Sergio Reguilon have all been introduced this season, making continuity a problem. Are we seeing a long-term vision from Los Blancos? If so, Madrid will be a force again once these youngsters have found their rhythm.
But just like anything, when the new things arrive it’s ‘out with the old’ and that includes, Bale along with Isco who are both likely to depart this summer. Courtois has even recently criticised Bale for not adapting to the Spanish way of life and says the winger has been dubbed ‘the golfer’ by the rest of the squad.
Marcelo has also Criticised Bale in the past for still not being able to speak Spanish despite living in Madrid for six years. The Brazilian recently told Marca: “Bale does not speak Spanish as he only speaks English and we talk with gestures.”
This insight into the winger’s lifestyle suggests that Bale is an outcast at the Bernabéu making a move even more likely. The question however, is where? Forget ‘who will’. It’s more a case of ‘who can’ afford to add an extra €18m to their annual wage bill.
Jose Mourinho was keen, but he no longer has a job. Chelsea have just splashed €65m on Christian Pulisic and Manchester City would breach FFP rules with that kind of addition. What about Bayern Munich? They are desperate for wingers following the announcement that both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery will be departing.
His contract expires in 2022, so he won’t be cheap, but at 29, long term planning-wise he wouldn’t be as attractive to the Germain giants as Callum Hudson-Odoi for example. A move makes sense for Madrid, they can re-coup some, if not all of the funds they used to sign Bale back in 2013 and could then re-invest the money to help fund a move for Hazard.
But for Bale, he is in danger of being left out in the cold, with no choice but to take a mammoth pay cut and return to White Hart Lane, ending his time at football’s top table.