Football fixtures have been removed from the calendar across the world, and as the coronavirus outbreak leaves the sport on hold, it is increasingly uncertain whether Gareth Bale will be a Real Madrid player when it resumes.
The Welshman has endured a torrid 12 months in the Spanish capital, lasting scoring a goal at the Santiago Bernabeu over a year ago, in a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo on March 16, 2019.
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Perhaps more remarkable is that he has only made five home starts in that time – Zinedine Zidane has preferred to use him away from home with eight of his 11 starts coming on the road.
Bale has two years remaining on his astronomical £15.4m salary, but Real are once more keen to use his sale to fund their summer transfer strategy, according to reports this week.
Nearly 12 months ago, Real had hoped to demand a fee in the region of £70m for the 30-year-old, but the Daily Mail now claim they would allow him to leave on a free transfer. So where would he go?
Since moving to the Bernabeu in 2013, the former Tottenham forward has won one La Liga title, a Copa del Rey, four Champions League crowns and a Spanish Supercopa – but would he ever be keen on joining Jose Mourinho’s rebuild?
During his spell at White Hart Lane, Bale scored 42 goals in 146 appearances, but an emotional return appears as unlikely as ever.
His agent Jonathan Barnett ruled out a return during the January transfer window, telling talkSPORT: “I don’t think so, no. He’s in a very fortunate position.
“When his contract is up hopefully, he will sit down with me and his family and decide what he wants to do. Gareth is very happy over there.
“And let’s be realistic, for most clubs he is out of their league, financially.
“It is all well and good to say, ‘Go and give up that money and go and play somewhere else’, but it is not all about money. It is about his lifestyle and his children, who have grown up in Madrid.”
Manchester United have been linked with Harry Kane, however, and were Tottenham to lose their talisman, Bale could be seen as a suitable short-term fix.
For Real, there is the added complication of when Brexit comes into effect next January, when Bale will occupy a non-EU player spot in the squad.
But for some European clubs, he would represent a huge asset, and following Aaron Ramsey’s move to Juventus, could he become the next Wales international to go on an Italian adventure?
An impressive record of 105 goals in 249 appearances as he heads towards the end of his seventh season in Madrid indicates he still has plenty to offer, and with Inter Milan becoming a sanctuary for established stars, could Bale be the next through the door?
He memorably lit up the San Siro as a Tottenham player during a virtuoso Champions League performance in September 2010, scoring a hat-trick to haul his side to the brink of a memorable comeback from 4-0 down in the group stages.
According to El Chiringuito, Inter boss Antonio Conte spoke with the club’s CEO Giuseppe Marotta and director of football Piero Ausilio last summer about the possibility of signing the Madrid forward.
United and Chelsea, two clubs who have previously shown interest in the player, appear now to have other targets based on building for the future, so Conte could find the pathway clear.
Major League Soccer
While Bale’s family are settled in Madrid, he has struggled to learn the language in seven years in Spain, leading to a fractious relationship with fans – but this wouldn’t be a problem were he to head Stateside.
Having missed a large part of the 2019/20 season, either through injury or through tactical reasons, dialogue could well open up between his representatives and MLS franchises.
Inter Miami and the LA Galaxy both expressed interest in the player in January, according to Spanish outlet El Desmarque.
Should president Florentino Perez and the Madrid hierarchy decide to cut their losses, another fresh project away from the full glare of the English media could suit Bale at some stage in his career, if not in the immediate future.
Chinese Super League
Madrid head coach Zidane has previously made it clear that he expected Bale to depart the Bernabeu, and China became his expected destination in July 2019.
Bale’s future has come under constant speculation ever since Zidane’s return to the club and he travelled to China in last summer’s transfer window before a move to Jiangsu Suning collapsed at the 11th hour.
With a basic salary of £350,000-per-week, along with the additional lucrative bonuses, it was reported that only certain clubs – including those in China – would afford such a hefty wage package.
As with a move now to MLS, however, the drop in intensity and quality for a player without a league goal since September and with just three games to his name in 2020 would represent a steep decline for one of Europe’s highest earners.
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