Bale and Zidane: redemption or remuneration?

Gareth Bale

The feeling persists that the Wales forward's future lies away from the Bernabéu, despite the player expressing his desire to stay.

Gareth Bale was said to be surprised and relieved to find himself in the starting line-up for Zinedine Zidane’s first game back in charge of Real Madrid. The Wales forward had been relegated to the status of a substitute under Zidane’s predecessor Santiago Solari and had failed to even make the squad for what proved to be the Argentinean’s final game away at Valladolid, apparently suffering from an ankle problem.

Bale’s inclusion in Zidane’s first starting XI was viewed by his representatives as an olive branch on the part of the Frenchman, who did not enjoy the warmest of relations with the Wales forward during his previous tenure but does in no small part owe Bale a measure of his unprecedented three consecutive Champions League successes, particularly last year’s triumph in Kiev when Bale climbed from the bench to score twice in the second half.

But there is another possible panorama unfolding, one that viewed as coldly as the world of football can occasionally turn out to be makes some sense with Bale having been criticized publicly by his teammates recently for his lack of integration in the Bernabéu dressing room: Zidane is going to play the 29-year-old as often as possible until the end of the season, with nothing tangible now left to play for, to try and push up the asking price for a sale this summer.

Bale in shop window to fund Hazard, Mbappé moves? 

Bale has lost much of the backing of the Bernabéu board, who staunchly refused to sell him in 2017 when José Mourinho was set on taking him to Old Trafford, even at the expense of missing out on Kylian Mbappé, who elected to join PSG due to his concern about a lack of playing time with Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema the undisputed starting three. Bale would have commanded a fee of around 100 million euros at that time, almost half of the 224 million euros Real had offered Monaco for the young French star. What the disparity between those prices will now stand at is anyone’s guess, but Mbappé has become the number one target for Florentino Pérez this summer.

““Despite all the stories that are being written in the Spanish press, he is happy, he speaks reasonable Spanish and there are no issues between him and the rest of the players at Real Madrid. The people who write this stuff don’t know anything about him. There have been no discussions about Gareth leaving Real Madrid. He won’t be going anywhere in the summer, despite whatever is being written. He’s happy and wants to stay at Real Madrid and the club feel the same way,” Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, said recently.

In the meantime, Bale looks set for plenty of opportunities to impress Zidane afresh. Whether that is simply a club strategy with the probable arrival of Eden Hazard and at least one more big name signing this summer, or a genuine attempt to give Bale the chance to reassert his place in the starting XI remains to be seen.