WHERE NEXT FOR CUP STAR BALE?
GARETH Bale’s post-Champions League grenade about his future has set up the transfer blockbuster of the summer.
His next move – ironically, just when he should start becoming the Real Madrid kingpin – will dominate the headlines more than that of any other player in the coming weeks and months.
No-one in Wales doubts Bale’s quality. In the eyes of many football fans here, he remains one of the top five footballers in the world and the fact Zinedine Zidane doesn’t pick him is perplexing.
But it isn’t anywhere near as simple as Bale wants to play regularly... so which club does he join?
There are numbers to crunch as well. Significant ones, given Real Madrid will want a transfer fee of £150million, Bale is reportedly on £600,000-plus a week and is contracted to the Bernabeu until 2022.
Bale isn’t one to rock the boat. In public, he normally displays diplomatic tendencies the United Nations secretary general would be proud of.
The fact is, however, Bale has made it clear he needs regular action. With Wales he has always been the kingpin and there is no reason why that shouldn’t happen at club level too.
Whatever, Bale certainly deserves a darned sight better than being a bit-part figure.
So, where will he be playing his football next season and beyond? These are the plausible options...
JOSE Mourinho clearly wants Bale, but the figures involved would even be a challenge for the world’s richest club.
Mourinho pushed the boat out with Alexis Sanchez, but could justify those wages because Manchester United didn’t have to pay Arsenal a transfer fee.
However, how do you put a price on winning the Premier League? With Bale, Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku up top, United would have to fancy their prospects of silencing their noisy neighbours.
That is, of course, if Mourinho is prepared to let Bale off the leash. And that remains a big if.
“United would be paying him £500,000-a-week to track back with full-backs,”, ex-Ireland striker Tony Cascarino wrote in his column in The Times. Verdict: Old Trafford is the Premier League destination Bale prefers and his say on his own future will be key.
JUST when you thought they can’t get any better, imagine Bale lining up in the sky blue of the champions as well. They are one club who definitely could afford him.
Pep Guardiola appears more minded to renew his interest in Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez and that could happen this week, but Bale is a better player.
The next challenge for Guardiola is to win the Champions League with Man City. Bale’s track record at doing that speaks for itself. Mahrez doesn’t have one.
Verdict: This one isn’t getting much traction at the moment and is unlikely, but don’t completely rule it out. Man City know Bale could take them to the next level and playing for Guardiola, who could improve his game further, surely appeals to the Welshman.
THE Italians have just landed their seventh successive Serie A title, but they too are desperate to win the Champions League and know Bale’s brilliance could offer a new dimension.
With Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, Bale could form a fearsome front line capable of striking terror into any defence in Europe.
But Juve have gone backwards since reaching the 2017 European final in Cardiff and Italian football isn’t what it was.
SPURS have a buy-back clause in the £85m deal that took Bale to Spain in 2013 and he would provide the missing link in their trophy hunt. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have so much going for them, but lack pace and extra creativity in their front line – qualities Bale would offer.
Under the terms of Bale’s contract, Tottenham must be given the opportunity to match any accepted bid from another Premier League club.
But would Bale really want to return there?
Verdict: Because of the way the original transfer was done, this can’t be dismissed. But, no disrespect to Spurs, Bale will be setting his sights higher.
CHELSEA OR LIVERPOOL
THESE would be the only other options for a Bale return to the Premier League.
Chelsea could afford him, particularly if they sell Eden Hazard this summer. Alternatively, Bale and Hazard on either flank would prove too much for any defence in the Premier as Roman Abramovich sets his sights upon conquering domestically again.
For Liverpool, it would be a case of can Bale help them end that near-30-year title drought?
Where would he fit in, given Jurgen Klopp already has Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, you might ask?
Ahead of at least two of them and possibly Salah too, is the answer. Bale has a much greater track record.
Chelsea is a possibility, but you can’t see Liverpool happening.
Verdict: BAYERN MUNICH
THIS is an intriguing one and could be the compromise package that deals with the financial complications and also gives Bale the regular club football that he covets.
Bayern are still a super power who have eyes on the big European prize, but need freshening up in the forward line with Franck Ribery now 35 and Arjen Robben 34.
The German champions have a fantastic rapport with Real Madrid, striking a two-year loan deal for World Cup hit-man James Rodriguez with an option to buy him.
They also negotiated the exchange of Toni Kroos and Xabi Alonso, while Polish striker Robert Lewandowski is rumoured to be the next one switching sides.
A year on loan in Germany could be an option to suit every party,
giving 12 months for Real and Bale to take stock for the 2019-20 campaign when he may wish to return to the Bernabeu.
Verdict: Bale is said to be open to this idea, but it wouldn’t be top of his list. He’d certainly be the greatest loan signing in the history of football.
THEY have already proven money is no object and may need another Galactico to replace Neymar, who himself is being heavily linked with a summer transfer back to Spain with Real Madrid.
However, the French League isn’t the highest standard and even Bale probably couldn’t propel PSG forward to win the Champions League.
Verdict: PSG will be more concerned with trying to keep hold of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
STAY AT REAL MADRID
THIS option is almost being dismissed, with Bale’s interview cast as a definitive ‘Come and get me plea’ to other European giants.
But everything being equal, Bale’s preferred choice would be to see out his Real contract.
Only it’s not equal, is it?
Bale started only seven of Real’s Champions League knockout games, and was hooked at half-time in that one.
His agent Jonathan Barnett is to meet Real Madrid in the next few days to discuss Bale’s future and we may know more then.
But Zidane can’t offer the guarantee of regular football Bale wants.
It was also interesting to note the Spanish newspapers’ coverage of Bale’s post-final remarks.
His brilliance had just won the cup for Real, yet the Marca and AS front-page headlines on Monday morning were identical: ‘Cristiano, stay!’ - a reference to Ronaldo’s hint he too may be leaving.
There was not a single mention of Bale. Even right-back Dani Carvajal’s injury took precedence over Bale’s future as the website splash on Monday afternoon.
Ronaldo is clearly kingpin at Real Madrid and rightly so, but if he does leave that may actually pave the way for Bale to stay.
Verdict: It’s too easy to assume Bale will be going. Playing for Real on a regular basis is his No.1 choice, but rightly or wrongly there continues to be speculation about Ronaldo-Bale conflict. Maybe Cristiano’s own future will determine Bale’s.
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