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Equal Time: Gareth Bale is not done

Monday 27th May 2019
Gareth Bale Real Madrid Equal Time Ios Mpalazzotto

Sometimes a player develops an unfavourable reputation, deserved or unwarranted, that he just can’t shake.

If this was Family Feud, you’d probably buzz in with ‘Paul Pogba’s lack of dedication’. Survey says… Ding!

Or you might go with ‘Mauro Icardi is a troublemaker’. Ding!

‘Gareth Bale is too injury prone for a big club to take a risk on him in this summer’s transfer market’ seems like a can’t-miss, doesn’t it? Baaaaah!

Sorry, wrong answer. There is one top club at which the Welshman would be an ideal fit despite his shortcomings. That club is Bayern Munich.

The 29-year-old’s experience and talent are just what die Roten require heading into the 2019/20 campaign. In exchange, the Bundesliga champions offer Zinedine Zidane’s latest whipping boy the same ideal refuge they did for James Rodriguez. What’s more, the Colombian’s two-year loan set a precedent both clubs might be willing to repeat if a mutually suitable fee can be agreed.

No, I am not insane.

Under new boss Niko Kovac, Bayern dug themselves so deep a hole they almost didn’t climb out to prevent Borussia Dortmund from ending their six-year title reign. The Bavarian’s furious second half of the season was aided by the Rhine-Westphalia side’s unexpected malaise.  Matters went down to the final matchday wherein Bayern’s 5-1 romp over Eintracht Frankfurt rendered moot BVB’s 2-0 victory over namesakes Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The final two goals in Die Roten’s match came from ageing wingers Arjen Robben [35] and Franck Ribery [36]. Both called time on their Bayern careers earlier in the New Year.

Ribery’s successor on the left flank, Kingsley Coman opened the scoring on four minutes. Robben’s heir apparent, Serge Gnabry also took over starting duties this term but didn’t make the scoresheet against Eintracht. He did contribute 13 goals and nine assists in 41 appearances across all competitions, earning a place in Joachim Loew’s next-gen Germany starting Xi. Less durable, Coman struck nine times and set up teammates seven in 29 games. The fact the Frenchman shares Bale’s affection for the trainer’s table and neither Ribery nor Robben will be around in the fall to provide cover creates a place for the unwanted Merengue.

He can play the same role at the Allianz Arena he did this campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu. The former Tottenham wunderkind’s 14 goals and six assists in 42 games are comparable to Gnabry. When Vinicius Junior broke into Los Blancos under Santiago Solari, Bale became accustomed to filling a supporting role. He came off the bench to score three times in January and February and provided an assist on another occasion in April.

Niko Kovac [or whoever replaces him as Bayern manager] can use a player with pace and trickery to rotate with Koman, keeping the 22-year-old fresh.

That the player has four Champions League winner’s medals in his possession only makes him more appealing. Nor was he just along for the ride. The Welshman provided several key goals along the way. The outstanding bicycle kick and swerving volley that flummoxed Liverpool’s Loris Karius in the 2018 final come to mind. Like Real, Bayern prioritise Europe. Bale’s influence can fill the void left by Robben and Ribery.

What can Bayern offer Bale? Four fewer league games for starters. The Bundesliga is an 18-team league.  Fewer games mean more recovery time. Optimal for an injury magnet. In addition, the German top flight takes a four-week break at Christmas, resuming league play in the New Year’s third week. Team training picks up halfway through but usually entails 10 days or so of warm-weather work.  The brittle winger will face a lower risk of injury and greater chance to contribute throughout the campaign.

While Zidane’s condemnation and the player’s health issues combine to make him untouchable for many clubs, Bayern Munich should be licking their chops at the prospect of having Gareth Bale in their squad.

Football Fixtures
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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