When Gareth Bale walked straight down the tunnel without acknowledging the fans after being an unused substitute against Real Betis on Sunday, it was confirmation of what we already knew.
The Welshman’s unhappiness at the Bernabeu has been no secret for a while now, and the fact that Znedine Zidane didn’t even bring him on to wave goodbye to the home faithful in the humbling 0-2 defeat speaks volumes.
Marca, the influential Spanish newspaper, had claimed that Bale and the goalkeeper Keylor Navas would be given an ‘honourable farewell’ in Real’s last home game of the season, and while the Costa Rican was given the full 90 minutes Bale never even made it out of the dug out.
And the writing appears to be on the wall for the Welshman, who has drawn the ire of the Galacticos fans for failing to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo. Zidane was quoted afterwards saying:
“I’m sorry he didn’t get to play, but no-one knows what will happen.
“If I think a player doesn’t fit in the team, I have to do what I think works best. No-one can change what Bale has done for the team, but as a coach I have to live in the present.
“I don’t know if it’s the last game for them [Bale and Navas] or not.”
Zidane and Bale are known not to be the best of buddies, and the decision of the Frenchman not to allow Bale one last chance to play at the Bernabeu was considered the latest act in a petty vendetta against the Welshman.
So what does Bale do now? There will be no shortage of interested parties in the 29-year-old, but few will surely be willing to match his current £350,000 pay deal.
That said, he may be available on the cheap from a transfer fee perspective as Zidane looks to rebuild at Real, and that might just turn the heads of the leading clubs on the continent.
The bookmakers believe a move to Manchester United might be imminent, but is Old Trafford a likely destination for a player who formerly commanded the highest transfer fee in the world? Here’s the bookies odds:
Manchester United (5/4)
You can get shades of odds-against on Bale joining the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revolution this summer, but some bookies are comprehensively odds-on for him to make the journey to Manchester.
On paper, it’s a strange one. United, of course, won’t be playing in the Champions League next season, so would Bale be willing to ‘downgrade’ from the top tier of competition?
And you have to wonder how Solskjaer would fit Bale into his squad as well. The Norwegian is known to prefer blooding youngsters, and so he will surely continue with his ploy of fielding the likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
There’s also the small matter of Alexis Sanchez, another winger already commanding a monumental wage at Old Trafford.
It just doesn’t seem that likely, does it?
Mauricio Pochettino has turned Tottenham into Champions League contenders by, well, not spending any money!
The Argentine is a canny operator, and he would know that a marquee signing would upset the applecart in his settled squad.
It’s also noticeable that the manager does not play with genuine wingers in any of his tactical plans, instead using his full backs to provide attacking width.
So unless Poch can convince Bale to play at left back, it seems unlikely he would unbalance his squad with such a huge money signing – whether the fans would love their former hero to return or not.
Paris Saint-Germain (9/1)
Bale, Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe.
Any permutation of those three would strike fear into the hearts of defences across Europe, and while it’s a given that PSG will probably win the Ligue 1 title again next season, it’s the Champions League title that their Qatari oil-rich investors crave.
And so money is no object – see the financial details regarding Neymar’s transfer to the club – and that means that Bale might not have to take a pay cut to join the Parisian outfit.
But would he have the motivation for the move? He may not have a choice if Zidane forces him out and there are no takers in England. It will be worth watching developments with interest here, that’s for sure.