Twelve months ago, Gareth Bale was coming to the end of his first season as a Real Madrid player – a season which would end with Bale scoring in the Champions League Final victory against city rivals Atletico, his 22nd goal of a successful debut season for the Spanish giants.
This season may not end so triumphantly for either Bale or Real, with a four point deficit to Barcelona in La Liga to overcome and now a 2-1 deficit to overcome against Italian giants Juventus in the Champions League semi-final second leg. It was Bale’s performance in last weeks semi-final first leg in Turin which has led to many question whether he will still be a Real Madrid player come next season.
Struggling with injuries since the turn of the year, Bale looked devoid of ideas against Juventus, making only 18 passes in the game, staggeringly three less than his own keeper Iker Casillas. Since January, Bale has only managed three goals and three assists with confidence appearing to be low. Real coach, Carlo Ancelotti, stated that Bale was tired against Juve but his overall performance against the Serie A champions was described by some pundits as being as if Real were playing with only ten men. Publicly Ancelotti will back his players, as he should, but privately Ancelotti must be hoping to find a solution to help Bale reach the sort of form that led to Real paying Tottenham a world record fee of £86 million for.
By underperforming, Bale opens the door to become the perceived weak link in the Real ‘galacticos’, a link that Madrid may look at removing completely. The return to fitness of James Rodriguez will also add to the pressure on Bale, with the young Columbian looking sharp against Juventus and supplying the assist for Real’s goal. With Madrid fans becoming increasingly critical of Bale, culminating in some attacking his car after defeat to Barcelona, it is clear that many are losing patience with the Welshman. The belief that Real’s best performances of the season have been when Bale has been unavailable through injury only adds fuel to the fire. There is also the continuing talk of friction between Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo with some believing that the pair struggle to have an on-field understanding.
A £100 million price tag on Bale will limit any suitors to only the top European clubs and it may be a return to England that bodes for Bale. Manchester United have never denied their liking of Bale and tried unsuccessfully to bring him to Old Trafford when he announced he wanted to leave Tottenham in 2013. A £100 million price tag may not deter United manager, Louis van Gaal, from attempting to court Bale from the Bernabeu. You can back Manchester United to be Bale’s next club at 5 (4/1). If Bale continues to struggle to find form before the end of this season, then this price may be significantly shorter by the time the summer transfer window opens.