This summer will witness a fascinating show of brinkmanship in the footballing dilemma that is brewing between Real Madrid and Gareth Bale. The Welshmen very much polarises opinion depending on who you speak with - the quintessential hero and villain if you will. Very much loved and adored by the Welsh supporters and respected in Britain for his overseas successes. However, he is ridiculed and disrespected by the majority of disgruntled Real Madrid supporters.
From the outside looking in, it is difficult to understand such a negative backlash for a player who has won four Champions League titles in six years, a La Liga title in 2017 and a man of the match performance in the Copa Del Rey final against arch rivals Barcelona - scoring that tremendous sprinting winning goal. His trophy haul at Los Merengues stands at, for him, lucky 13, and his goal record overall is not shabby - 78 goals in 155 appearances. A classic goal in every two games ratio, which years ago would represent an impressive tally.
However, this is Real Madrid - the Disneyland of the footballing world - where every movement is forensically analysed in exhaustive detail. For the expensive nature of the deal he was signed for - a world record £85 million pounds - his dwindling number of goals and his many injury issues, the numbers simply don’t add up as on first reflection. For a ‘Galactico’ has to be the star and he has to show week-in, week-out why he belongs to one of, if not the biggest teams in world football. When Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus, Bale was expected to step up and take his mantle and become the fulcrum and talisman of the team. It simply hasn’t panned out that way.
There are, however, mitigating circumstances and it has to be stressed that certain factors have gone against him, such as those unfortunate injuries. But there are some issues he could have improve on. For one, his inability to immerse himself in the language, culture and the differing habits of living in Spain. It is always a difficult challenge to come out of your comfort zone and learn a new lingo but after six years living in Spain and conducting only one highly staged interview in Spanish, it is understandable how supporters can feel negativity towards the player.
The fact he seems socially withdrawn and unwilling to participate in club activities also goes against him. Recently, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said the players have nicknamed him ‘The Martian’ whilst Marcelo calls him ‘The Golfer’ for his love of the game. Indeed, his passion for golf has got him into trouble with accusations laying at his door he is more focused on his golf game than trying to be a success at the white house of Madrid.
Very little is heard from the player himself, making it difficult to gauge his opinion. His agent Jonathan Barnett only confirmed briefly last month: “He is very happy in Madrid,” and all the noises coming out of the Welshman’s camp confirm he is determined to stay at Los Blancos.
And so to what happens next? Bale has a contract through to 2022 and is happy to stay, being settled for him and his family. Who can blame him on the numbers he is earning? However, with the return of Zinedine Zidane and a manager openly not in favour of the Welshman -“We’re not exactly the best of friends,” he said of his relationship with Zidane - it seems likely there is set to be only one outcome. After months of simmering, the situation has reached breaking point with a total divorce between player, manager and club supporters. Bale has been deemed surplus to requirements and a solution to this prickly predicament clearly has to be sought.
With no permanent transfer suitors forthcoming due to his age (29, soon to be 30 next month), a huge wage packet (£350,000 per week after tax), and his injury record, a potential loan detail represents the best solution for all parties. Manchester United are mooted to be interested in a deal of this nature, which would represent a triple win scenario. The player would play, the club would relieve itself of his high contractual burden and club supporters would welcome his exit. However, this solution is not on the cards according to Mr. Barnett: “A loan move is not going to happen. There’s more chance of me winning at Ascot (Horse Racing) than him going out on loan.”
In football, as is the norm, everything is not straightforward, and there will be many twists and turns ahead in this summer saga. August 31st will be the deadline for the Gareth Bale conundrum.