WHERE NEXT FOR CUP STAR BALE?

Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL ABBANDONATO Head of sport paul.abbandonato@waleson­line.co.uk

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...

MANCH­ESTER UNITED

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.

MANCH­ESTER CITY

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.

JU­VEN­TUS

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.

Un­likely.

Ver­dict: TOT­TEN­HAM

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.

PSG

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.

> Could Jose Mour­inho and Pep Guardi­ola be fight­ing over Gareth Bale’s sig­na­ture.. or could he be play­ing un­der Ju­ven­tus’ Mas­si­m­il­iano Allegri or PSG’s Thomas Tuchel, right, next sea­son?

> Tot­ten­ham have first re­fusal on Gareth Bale in the Premier League... but would he want to re­turn to Spurs?

> With Franck Ribery, left, and Ar­jen Robben ap­proach­ing vet­eran sta­tus, would a move to Bay­ern Mu­nich ap­peal to Gareth Bale?

> One more look... the goal that brought the sub­ject of Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid fu­ture into sharp fo­cus

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