Playing under a coach that wants him gone and for an owner that won’t let him leave, Real Madrid star Gareth Bale could be about to embark on a lengthy spell in limbo.
Whenever Real coach Zinedine Zidane has spoken about Bale or the Welsh international’s future at the club, it has been with brutal bluntness.
“I have not disrespected anyone,” Zidane said after a recent friendly against Arsenal in the US. “The club is dealing with his departure. Period.”
However, Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, told French publication Le Journal du Dimanche that their falling out is personal, rather than professional or tactical.
“It’s quite simple, Zidane doesn’t like Gareth,” he said. “There is no relationship between them, there never has been.”
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Zidane is desperate to offload Bale and his $16 million per year salary to make room for one more signing in his squad revamp, rumored to be Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
But Real president Florentino Perez, who has often come to Bale’s defense during his time at the club, reportedly vetoed his imminent transfer to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning.
Madrid-based paper Diario AS report that the club now has concerns about squad depth following the long-term injury to Marco Asensio.
“Signing a player with his characteristics would cost 150 million euros – if there was a player like Bale currently on the market,” they write.
The nominal transfer fee to be paid by Jiangsu Suning reportedly led to Perez canceling the move with just 72 hours of the Chinese transfer window remaining.
It has been widely reported that Bale had already agreed a contract with the club worth an eye-watering $1.25 million per week, around double his current weekly wage.
The club instead signed Croatian forward Ivan Santini, meaning it has reached the four foreign player limit that CSL rules allow.
Bale and his partner are happy living on the outskirts of Madrid and Spanish sport newspaper Marca report that they are unwilling to move their young family abroad.
Real did not immediately respond to CNN Sport’s request for comment about Bale’s immediate future.
It’s not just Bale’s future that has been a concern for the club’s fans – Real Madrid’s pre-season form has been underwhelming, to put it kindly.
Zidane dropped Bale from the squad for the 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich, before bringing him off the bench against Arsenal to score and help mount a comeback.
Despite Bale’s performance, the Frenchman insisted that “nothing had changed” and both parties were still negotiating his exit from the club.
But Perez’s decision to keep Bale came soon after the 7-3 humiliation at the hands of city rival Atletico Madrid.
Once again, Zidane opted to leave Bale out of the starting line-up and again brought him on with 30 minutes remaining – by which time Real found itself 6-1 down.
The 30-year-old still has three years left on his current contract but a frustrating succession of injuries has limited his playing time over the past four seasons.
However, despite the stop-start nature to his Real career, Bale has proved himself to be invaluable to Real on the biggest of stages.
He has scored three goals – and one penalty in a shootout – in four victorious Champions League finals, netting two winners and arguably the greatest final goal in the competition’s history against Liverpool in 2018.
Bale played 42 times last season but ended it on the bench as Real endured one of the worst seasons in its recent history, finishing 19 points behind La Liga winner Barcelona.
During his six years at the club, he has collected 14 major trophies and his 102 goals and 65 assists in 231 matches – 0.72 goals or assists every game – is undeniably impressive.
With just three days left to complete a switch to China and a manager that doesn’t want him, Bale’s Real limbo could continue for another season.