What next for Gareth Bale?Published on: May 22, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
Ever since Real Madrid were humbled by Ajax in their own backyard during the first knockout round of the Champions League, the prospect of sweeping change has dangled above the Bernabeu like the Sword of Damocles.
A chief casualty of that looks sure to be Gareth Bale – the Welsh wing wizard signed by Los Blancos for a world record fee who, despite a glut of trophies, has enjoyed precious little love from fans in Spain.
If Bale was also looking for warmth from Real icon and returning manager Zinedine Zidane, then he has not publicly received it. Column inches aplenty have been dedicated to their relationship, or lack of it.
The writing seems very much on the wall. Bale’s future surely lies away from the Bernabeu, but he is on big money and there are potential problems with prospective destinations.
History should be kinder to him when the dust settles on his Real career, but what next? These are some of the Bale next club options and the issues surrounding them…
Man Utd mess needs sorting out
One team that has been consistently linked with bringing Bale back to the Premier League is Manchester United, but they’ve missed out on Champions League football and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big rebuilding job on his hands.
Upheaval at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure is such that a marquee move for Bale cannot paper over fundamental cracks at the club. The problem is deeper-lying than simply throwing money at it.
Recruitment needs to be more subtle at the Red Devils. Alexis Sanchez’s purchase by United, for instance, always felt tactical – as though they were blocking neighbours Manchester City from getting him, rather than suiting any real purpose.
Stockpiling players is not how to build a successful squad. To a club where there are commercial considerations like United, however, Bale is always going to be of interest. He can sell shirts.
There are other areas of Solskjaer’s squad where an overhaul is needed more than attack. Defence ought to be a priority and Bale may not be thrilled by the prospect of dropping into the Europa League next term.
Can Spurs afford him?
Other Bale next club rumours that involve a return to English football say Tottenham may be tempted to bring him back.
Come the summer the Champions League finalists won’t have spent a penny on players for 18 months, but have built and financed a new stadium.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is the shrewdest of businessmen. He negotiated the world record deal to sell Bale to the Bernabeu in the first place and has proved tough to deal with over the exits of other key performers like Kyle Walker.
It would be a serious statement of intent from Tottenham to take him home. Mauricio Pochettino may not be in charge next season, meanwhile, and splashing out to loan or repurchase Bale would be a departure from the club’s recent model.
Can Spurs afford his wages? Bale is not a typical Pochettino signing, with the preference being to develop young talent rather than buy in established stars.
If Real were to subsidise the move, however, might an exception be made in this case? This is a big call from Levy and/or Pochettino.
Bringing Bale back and paying those big wages could put other senior players’ noses out of joint. Could Los Blancos want Christian Eriksen to move the other way? It’s a minefield.
Big boots to fill at Bayern
At German giants Bayern Munich, meanwhile, there’s a big summer of change in the works. Senior players Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, who have torn up the Bundesliga for so many seasons, are both leaving Bavaria.
You think at once, why not parachute Bale into the Allianz Arena to fill those big boots out wide?
Well, Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez spent the last couple of campaigns with Bayern on loan from Real and didn’t exactly pull up any trees.
When utility player Joshua Kimmich has made more assists despite playing further back down the field, it’s easy to see why Munich may not want to leap in and bring in another Bernabeu misfit.
Bayern have already started remodelling their defence with early swoops for France’s World Cup winning duo Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez. These signings are relatively young, however, both aged 23.
Bale turns 30 over the summer, meanwhile, and Munich may be looking for longer term value in any recruitment in attack.
Prolific Poland striker Robert Lewandowski will also need replacing eventually, so Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman may be trusted on the flanks.
PSG prepared to pay big bucks
Money is no object to dominant French Ligue 1 champions PSG. Backed by Qatari petrodollars, they have attracted players of Bale’s standing to the Parc des Princes with ease in recent years.
There has been talk of offloading Uruguay frontman Edinson Cavani this summer and also some rumours that Kylian Mbappe could leave too.
Although PSG scotched such speculation about the latter, it the former goes it does create some space to draft Bale in.
The owners want Champions League glory, much like their counterparts at Manchester City it is a chief reason for their substantial investment in the Parisian club.
Much like Bale’s time at the Bernabeu though, he wouldn’t be the main man at PSG. That honour goes to Brazil forward Neymar, who left Barcelona to escape the considerable shadow of Lionel Messi.
Bale was for many years in similar shade at Real cast by Cristiano Ronaldo, before his somewhat surprise transfer to Italian giants Juventus.
While switching to Serie A remains an option for Bale too, things look very fluid at the big clubs in Milan, Rome and Turin at this stage.
French football may be an easier alternative to the tactical demands of the Italian game, but does he want to play second fiddle to Neymar?