Gareth Bale has fallen out of favour with Zinedine Zidane once and for all, despite the Real Madrid coach's insistence that is not the case. "You think Gareth isn't in my plans anymore, but that's not true," declared the Frenchman after Real's 2-1 Champions League win at Bayern Munich on Wednesday, when he was asked whether he would understand it if Bale wanted to leave the Bernabéu at the end of the season. However, his team selection tells a different story.
Bale's sub status cemented at Real Madrid
Bale is now firmly established as a substitute on the big nights. He was on the bench for both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain, and didn't play a minute of the quarter-final opener against Juventus in Turin. In the return, he was handed a start, but - with Los Blancos 2-0 down to the Italians - was replaced at half time. In Munich this week, he was again a sub, and was unused.
And Bale's slip down the pecking order is also reflected in Real's day-to-day. Where he used to pose for training-ground photos with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric, the ex-Tottenham man now appears alongside other regular bench-warmers. On Thursday, Borja Mayoral, who did not make the bench at Bayern, took to social media to post an image in which he can be seen with Marcos Llorente (also not involved in Munich), Kiko Casilla, Theo Hernández, Mateo Kovacic (who got seven minutes)... and Bale.
Summer exit looks to be on the cards for Bale
It's a state of affairs which, with Bale cutting a disillusioned figure since losing his starting status under Zidane, strongly points towards a summer departure, with the Premier League appearing the likeliest destination for the forward, who is under contract at Real until 2022.