The Gareth Bale saga at Real Madrid looks like it’s finally coming to an end, with manager Zinedine Zidane seemingly making it clear the Welshman’s future lies away from the club by leaving him out of the squad for the team’s 3-1 defeat to Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Bale has been linked with an exit almost since the moment he arrived in Madrid, but now that it’s finally set to happen, it’s time to see where exactly the winger could end up.
He’s been mooted as a transfer target for several of Europe’s leading clubs, with a return to the Premier League where he first made a name for himself potentially in the offing.
Here are five possible landing spots for the Wales star.
Bayern Munich have been focusing on youth in recent seasons, furthering the development of players like Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman while signing the likes of Leon Goretzka and, more recently, Alphonso Davies.
But there’s no substitute for quality. Especially in the competition Bayern want to win most, as racking up Bundesliga titles season after season gets boring.
They haven’t won the Champions League since 2013. Bale’s won four in six seasons since then, starring in two separate finals.
And the Bavarians should already know that the Welshman would be a good fit. A left-footed player on the right wing who loves putting on the afterburners and has a penchant for scoring great goals?
Arjen Robben’s been doing that in Munich for a decade. He’s leaving this summer – just in time for Bale to take up the mantle.
Though Chelsea are facing a potential transfer ban, if they win their appeal against that then Bale should definitely be on their radar.
Eden Hazard is set to leave the club this summer and it’s easy to see a scenario where the two players effectively replace each other, with Hazard set to take Bale’s place at Madrid.
The Welshman could do the same at Chelsea. He would be a readymade star with Premier League experience, and would slot straight into the Blues’ XI when fit.
While Christian Pulisic, set to arrive this summer from Borussia Dortmund, acclimatises to English football and Callum Hudson-Odoi continues his development, Bale would ensure Chelsea don’t miss Hazard too much.
He’s been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge before and, in theory, a move this summer could be easy – Chelsea could ask Madrid for Bale in exchange for the Belgian, with any difference in transfer fees being sorted out between the two clubs.
Maurizio Sarri’s side have just finished third and a player like Bale would be exactly the sort of signing that helps close the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City.
Bale was part of one of the original acronym strike forces, Real Madrid’s ‘BBC’ attack alongside Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, to counter Barcelona’s ‘MSN’ – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Could he do it again at PSG?
It may prompt some confusion over how best to arrange the letters B, N, and M with Kylian Mbappe thrown in to the mix alongside Neymar – and, of course, how to get those three to play together.
Mbappe plays in Bale’s usual right-wing position and Neymar plays on the left where Bale began his career, though all three of these players are capable of playing anywhere in a front three.
Then again, it may be time for Mbappe to move into a central role with Edinson Cavani almost certain to leave this summer, and that would go a long way to accommodating Bale – though what impact it would have on the young Frenchman is unknown.
Bale would be a typical – some would say typically ill-advised – PSG signing, a readymade superstar who can slot into the first-choice XI. If it clicks, that trio would be lethal.
Whether it would bring the French side any closer to the ultimate goal of winning the Champions League is hard to say. They’ve brought players with experience of winning the trophy before without it paying off, so assuming Bale is the final piece of the jigsaw is unrealistic. But there’s no doubt that he’d be a quality addition, one that would ensure there’s no drop-off when Cavani leaves.
There would be concerns over his fitness, given that in Neymar they already have one injury-prone superstar. On the other hand, wages wouldn’t be an issue, which makes signing Bale much easier. There’s considerable downside but also tremendous upside to this signing for PSG – and the latter often ends up outweighing the former in transfer calculations.
Manchester United need a right-winger. They have several players who are right-footed but prefer playing on the left – Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez – and it’s made their attack lopsided.
Of course, Bale to United is a move that has dominated the rumour mill almost every season since he joined Madrid – and even before; according to David Moyes the club put in a bigger bid for the Welsh star when he became manager in 2013 than Madrid did to land him from Tottenham that summer.
By now, the club, and the fans, probably have Bale speculation fatigue.
And after the Sanchez debacle, another injury-prone star on high wages will give United pause, not least because Bale turns 30 this summer. United would rather go for the likes of Jadon Sancho or Nicolas Pepe, even if they cost more.
But they’ve also scouted Swansea’s Daniel James as a low-cost alternative in a bid to shift from prioritising big-name signings. Bale would still be one of those, of course, but bringing him in as a bridge player for the next couple of years while his younger compatriot develops wouldn’t be the worst idea.
The fairytale return. Bale rose to stardom during Tottenham‘s first-ever Champions League campaign during the 2010/11 season, and it was that one followed by the next two that earned him his move to Madrid.
Returning to a team that is now a regular in the Premier League top four and even competes for the title on occasion, and has made the Champions League final, could help take Spurs to the next level.
It’s set up to be the perfect script. Tottenham’s first full season in their brand new stadium, a campaign begun either as European champions or losing Champions League finalists, and their old hero returns.
Could Spurs afford to sign him? That new stadium will no doubt be affecting their transfer budget for a while, and if it’s a question of losing Christian Eriksen or Harry Kane to bring in the Welshman, the north London club would rather pass.
But recent reports have suggested a deal in which Tottenham pay a small loan fee while Madrid continue to pay a good chunk of Bale’s wages – an arrangement that could fit within Spurs’ budget while helping his current club offload him. It’s unlikely, but after this season, who’s going to stop Spurs fans from dreaming?
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.
Today’s is a special Real Madrid edition and features potential signings and departures for the Spanish giants.
RUMOUR: Manchester United -> €170m -> Real Madrid
Madrid have stepped up their interest in Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, according to the Independent.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Pogba reportedly feels underappreciated at United with criticism continuously directed his way, especially from some of the fans. A player of his calibre needs to be playing in the Champions League and Old Trafford is a very unstable environment at the moment. He could also be lured by the prospect of working with Zinedine Zidane.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Selling one of their only world class players would hurt United’s rebuilding process. Ole Gunner Solskjaer is adamant he wants Pogba to be integral to the team moving forward. United are likely to demand a huge fee with the Frenchman under contract for two more years with an option for one more.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 5/10
RUMOUR: Real Madrid -> Loan -> Tottenham
Madrid are organising a clearing-out this summer and chief among the departures could be Gareth Bale. According to Marca, Los Blancos would consider a loan move as a last resort with Tottenham being the Welshman’s likely destination.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Bale needs to be playing football and should former club Tottenham win the Champions League, he could be convinced of their new standards. He could thrive under Mauricio Pochettino and back in an environment he’s comfortable with. The Madridistas have never quite taken to him. Meanwhile, he’s already won every trophy he can at the Bernabeu.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: The forward’s wages are astronomical and even if Madrid agree to pay a portion of it, Spurs could be put off by the remaining amount. After all, even half of around £600,000 a week would still make him their highest-paid player by a distance. There is also the issues with his injury record and at 29, that could only worsen.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 6/10
RUMOUR: Eintracht Frankfurt -> €70m -> Real Madrid
Madrid are set to announce the signing of Luka Jovic next week upon the conclusion of the Bundesliga season, as reported by AS.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Los Blancos are desperate for a striker to not only relieve the 31-year-old Karim Benzema but also compete with him for the opportunity to lead the line. The return of Mariono Diaz has been a little underwhelming and Jovic is hot property at the moment.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Barcelona, despite closing in on Antoine Griezmann, are still looking for more attacking options and have shown interest in Jovic. At the end of the day, Benzema has enjoyed one of his best individual seasons at the Bernabeu and Madrid have bigger fires to put out.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 8/10
Ajax wonder-kid Matthijs de Ligt refused to talk about his future after lifting the Eredivisie title on Wednesday.
The centre-back has been linked to a move to Barcelona for a while now. When asked if he is set to leave the club along with his friend Frenkie de Jong – who is already on his way to the Catalan club – the Dutchman said that he has to think things through.
“We’ve just won [the league] and this isn’t the time to talk about whether I’m leaving with Frenkie de Jong,” said the 19-year-old, according to Marca.
“I have to think things through this summer and we’ll see what happens.”
The Ajax captain also reflected on what was a great season for the young Ajax side.
“It’s been a great season,” he said. “I enjoyed the cup, the league and the Champions League, although the elimination to Tottenham [Hotspur] hurt. But what I’ve liked the most was the team spirit.
“We’re a group of friends and we play football as if we were on the school playground. We’ve created a bond. We’re proud.”