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Zinedine Zidane’s powder keg comments Saturday have ignited speculation over Gareth Bale’s future.
What did he say specifically again?
“Bale did not play (vs. Bayern Munich) because he is very close to leaving,” Zidane admitted. “We hope he leaves soon, it would be best for everyone. We are working on his transfer to a new team.”
Look, this situation has spiraled into absurdity for a number of reasons, and we’re not functioning under normal pretenses here. Even by Real Madrid’s accelerated madhouse standards, this is ridiculous.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at where Bale is most likely to end up this season, with percentage likelihood attached to the destinations that feature most prominently in rumors and betting circles.
Real Madrid (40 percent)
That’s right. The storm is loud and distracting at the moment, but we’re going with Bale staying put as the most likely outcome. The situation between Bale and Zidane reeks of “untenable”, but then “untenable” is a word thrown around sports more often than it should be. Players hate each other and their managers all the time. Fine. Real Madrid was once again confirmed as one of the most valuable franchises in the world on Monday, and besides, fiscal responsibility isn’t in Real Madrid’s DNA anyway. Winning is.
So they’ll pay him to sit on the sidelines or play golf or whatever, and who knows? His still-considerable ability may be needed in the latter stages of competitions next calendar year. Doesn’t hurt to have that still in your squad. True, new players like Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois are cycling in as the same teammates that won the Champions League with Bale four times are cycling out, and that could impact the dressing room. But is another Bale goal in a clutch spot to help win a major trophy worth the $17 million or so Real Madrid will pay him this season? Of course it is. Everybody grow up.
Chinese Super League (25 percent)
This is the most likely outcome (1/3) according to the SkyBet odds, and clubs like Beijing Guoan are reportedly set to offer Bale whatever he wants to add his name to their marquee and portfolio. ESPN FC’s Rodrigo Faez and Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC report Real Madrid would even be willing to let him go to East for free.
So playing in China makes sense, with one significant catch: Bale doesn’t want to.
Or at least he’s reticent, per reports. Supposedly Bale isn’t attracted to the relative anonymity of the league on the world stage, even if his agent, Jonathan Barnett, is attracted to the dollar figures. Nobody in Europe will pay as much, and money is loud. But so is a player’s preference. There’s a decent chance this happens.
Bayern Munich (20 percent)
Unlike other situations, one Bayern player has actually come out and said Bale would be welcome on the team.
“If Gareth wants to come, any top player who wants to come here is welcome,” midfielder Thiago Alcantara told reporters, according to the Mirror.
From a strict tactical standpoint, this makes the most sense, too. Bale could conceivably step in for club legends Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, who both left Bayern after this past season. He brings speed and tricks on the wing along with a physical component neither Ribery nor Robben did.
There’s plenty of reason to believe this won’t happen, too. Bayern didn’t really rely heavily on those two anymore anyway, given their age, and brought in a number of promising wingers that developed over the course of the season. And is Bale stepping in for them really best for him? He’s already under the pressure cooker of Real Madrid, and this might be the most high-profile swap he can make. Couple that with the fact Real Madrid might not want to strengthen a serious challenger for the Champions League crown, and we’ll need more convincing here.
Paris Saint-Germain (10 percent)
Reports in Spain have Real Madrid offering Bale and $101 million in exchange for Neymar, another superstar forward. We’ve seen deals before where players sweeten the mix, and while he’s hardly a perfect fit, Neymar could find a place in Real Madrid’s revamped attack.
If this is true, and so is Barcelona’s offer, the question for PSG becomes: Do we want $112 million and our pick of two players, or $11 million less but one better player? It’s not a bad spot to be in. The French giants can pit the two Spanish titans against each other, and lining up Bale with Kylian Mbappe would give PSG some deadly pace up front. Sensational swoops almost never come to fruition, but keep an eye on this one.
Manchester United (4 percent)
Bale’s link to Old Trafford is years old by now, and it doesn’t seem to fit the transfer policy of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who’s reviving his squad with younger signings. That said, United may need a leader of the line if Romelu Lukaku is sold to Inter Milan. Bale may not be a prototypical No. 9, but the Red Devils could do worse.
Tottenham Hotspur (1 percent)
Mauricio Pochettino is looking to spend big and upgrade his 2019 Champions League runner-up. This probably isn’t how he wants to do it.
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