Gareth Bale can't get a game at Real Madrid but can't find himself a suitor either
Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale was given 18 minutes off the bench in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final clash with Bayern Munich. He has now racked up 99 minutes of football in the knockout rounds. That is over six games or 16.5 minutes/match.
Despite head coach Zinedine Zidane insisting Bale still had a future at the Santiago Bernabéu, the 28-year-old continues to be left out of Real’s biggest games. He may consider a summer exit if he remains on the periphery.
Bale joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013. He has made 185 appearances in all competitions, scoring or creating 141 goals. In that time, the Welsh international has only amassed 9,365 minutes of La Liga football from a possible 16,740 (56%) due to chronic injury
In his first season in Castilian white, Bale didn’t make his full home debut until late October. That said, his first two campaigns in Spain were his most active, 27 appearances in 2013/14 and 31 in 2014/15.
Then things spiralled. Bale’s third season comprised only 23 appearances. A muscle problem permitted only two appearances from seven between mid-September and November. A calf injury kept him out for two months at the turn of the year.
Last season, the Welsh international made only 19 appearances. Half the campaign was lost to a knee injury and a calf problem cut the remaining season short. This season, Bale spent three months out between late September and just before the holidays due to another calf injury. He has been fit but not regularly playing since.
When he does play, Bale is scoring and creating goals, but Real may feel they’re not fully benefitting from their sizeable investment as a result of his ongoing injury problems.
Future in Zidane's hands
The Real manager will likely be a major factor in Bale’s decision to leave. He can’t get a game under the Frenchman in the Champions League and is rarely given 90 minutes in La Liga. This season, Bale has made just eight 90-minute appearances, having made only 10 the previous campaign.
Because the 28-year-old must be protected, opportunities are given to other players. Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio have featured more frequently in the season's second-half. Vazquez has played in all but two of Real’s Champions League games. Asensio has missed just one. Neither player has missed a knockout encounter.
Bale has. He was an unused substitute in the first leg of the quarter-finals and the first leg of the semi-finals. With Zidane overlooking him for the important games, the Welsh forward might only stay if the manager moves on in the summer. If Zidane doesn’t leave, Bale might. But where would he go?
I said where would he go?
With Real unlikely to accept less than the £85 million spent to procure his signature in 2013, Bale’s options are limited. His £350k/week wages can’t be matched by many clubs. The 28-year-old has few realistic options.
According to the Deloitte Money League, the top-10 richest clubs in the world are Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus. Which among them would realistically pay so much money for a soon-to-be 29-year-old likely to spend half his time in the trainer's room?
Manchester United tried to sign Bale before Real Madrid procured his signature in 2013. They have been linked ever since. Jose Mourinho already has too many attackers: Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, and Romelu Lukaku. That may rule them out unless he's willing to return to a left-back role. Manager Jose Mourinho has publicly said he doesn’t want another attacker.
Barcelona seldom do business with their fierce rivals. Bayern can’t afford a Bale type, especially considering they already have one in Arjen Robben. Manchester City have Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva in their attack but did try to sign Riyad Mahrez, a left-footed right-winger. They could be interested.
Arsenal can’t afford Bale. Neither can Chelsea. PSG aren’t likely to add to their £358 million tandem of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Liverpool have the money but aren't interested in Bale.
That leaves City as the only realistic suitors unless the Welshman goes to the Chinese Super League. He may be forced to stay at Real, like James Rodriguez did, until he and the club are willing to lower their demands.