When players start using the interviews they’re giving literally just after winning the biggest game in club football to wrangle with their club, it means they’ve probably won enough Champions Leagues at this point. Can you imagine Sadio Mané coming out, if Liverpool had won, and angling for a new, more lucrative contract a la Cristiano Ronaldo? Me neither.
Regardless, both Ronaldo and Gareth Bale used their platform to engage in some high-level mischief.
Ronaldo, as mentioned, is pretty clearly just after more dough. To be (slightly) fair to him, Real Madrid’s contract structure does mean that he gets paid considerably less than the other biggest players in the game, like Messi and Neymar. Also, according to Guillem Balagué, he had been promised a new deal quite a while ago now, only for Florentino Pérez to go quiet on the subject.
Ronaldo is already the star at the biggest club in the world, and continues to rack up silverware. Given that he’s 33, yet still god-like, it’d also be extremely hard to calculate a fair transfer price for him. The chances of him actually forcing his way out, or even wanting to, are near-zero.
Bale on the other hand? That’s a more interesting proposition.
Ronaldo’s message was cryptic – referring to Real in the past tense. Bale’s left very little open to interpretation:
“Obviously I need to be playing week-in, week-out and that hasn’t been happening this season, for one reason or another.
“I had a five week injury at the start of the season and I’ve been fit ever since. I’ll have to sit down in the summer and discuss it with my agent and take it from there.”
Well, that sounds pretty cut-and-dry to me.
On the one hand, I get where he’s coming from – every single player in the world wants to be playing every week. That doesn’t change whether you’re at Stafford Rangers or Real Madrid.
I think the start of that second paragraph is telling too. He’s been incredibly unlucky with injuries since getting to Real, and they’re threatening to define him; to become the story of his career there. They’re not – a series of big goals in the biggest games are – but they are immensely frustrating.
That goes not just for Bale, but for the fans. I was in Madrid recently, and watched one game live at the Bernabeu, and two at a busy local bar. I can tell you that he’s on an extremely short leash with the Madridistas – every time he makes a mistake, there’s a murmuring that doesn’t happen when Ronaldo, say, or Modrić messes up.
He’s developed a reputation for being injury-prone, and – more importantly – someone who can’t be relied on. When the chips are down, and you need someone to step up on the biggest stage, Ronaldo will always be there. In the most recent Clasico, for example, CR7 played on for half an hour with a strained ankle.
You just can’t say the same for Bale. He’s an amazing squad option to have, he can make an incredible impact when he does play – as we’ve seen in recent weeks – but if you’re planning out your whole season, you simply can’t rely on him.
This – combined with the superior discipline and tactical flexibility that Lucas Vázquez brings – has led to him slipping down the pecking order for Zidane’s Madrid. It’s quite possible that Flo Perez has a word with Zizou, and puts pressure on him to start Bale next season… but I doubt it. That’s not how Real Madrid operate, usually. Their “no player is bigger than the club” ethos – which they apply even to their biggest star, Ronaldo – is one of the reasons they’re so ludicrously successful.
As it is, both sides enter the summer in an awkward standoff, where it seems the only reason conclusion that’ll suit both sides is a Bal-exit. A Bexit? For Bale to leave, is what I’m trying to say.
Should Bale Push for Sale from Real?
As outlined above, I understand why Bale is frustrated, and why he’s spoken up. I do hope he’s only posturing for a new deal, or for some kind of assurance regarding his playing time, however… because he’d be a fool to actually leave Madrid.
Firstly… it’s Real Madrid!
He got the move that every kid (who wasn’t born in Catalonia) dreams of, and he got it at only 24 years old. Since then he’s won a La Liga, a Copa del Rey, and a ridiculous four Champions League titles.
Players should be in the game to win trophies, and – aside from their underperformance in the league, which is surely liable to change at any time – no club is better set up to do that than Real Madrid. They’re the biggest club in the world, and – even if you move to Manchester United or Bayern Munich – you’re still taking a step down.
Secondly, where is he supposed to go?
There are only three clubs with the budget to sign him: Manchester City, Manchester United and PSG (they wouldn’t sell him to Barcelona, who are reportedly crippled by high wages anyway, and Bayern Munich probably couldn’t afford him… although he would fit in nicely there).
I can’t see Pep particularly wanting him, and they’re lining up Riyad Mahrez to flesh out an already-stacked forward line. That’s Man City out.
There’s similarly little room at the inn at PSG. Unless Neymar does force his way out (which would be ridiculous, even for him), their forward spots are already filled with top-level players.
That leaves Manchester United. The “Bale to Man U” rumours have long been… mouted, and – on paper – this move would make sense. Bale stays at a top level club, and Man Utd continue to implement their Manc Galacticos transfer policy.
In terms of Bale’s career, however, this would be a disaster. Look at what’s happened to Alexis Sanchez since he moved there. Look at Pogba. Look at Mkhitaryan since Mourinho arrived. Look at Rashford, and Martial. I’ve got some breaking news: Jose Mourinho does not always get the best out of attacking-minded players.
Bale’s scoring numbers would dip, he’d be surrounded by worse players than he is at Real, he’d have no clear path to winning trophies, he’d have to play in a more physical league again (which I simply mention with regard to his injuries), he’d be going from an all-time great to an all-time sourpuss with Jose Mourinho as his coach, and he’d have to play in a turgid, stale, dull system which leaves extremely little room for expression.
What part of that sounds appealing to you?
I get that the grass is always greener, and that sometimes you just want a change. In Bale’s case, I also understand his additional frustrations. But I really hope he thinks better of this, because if Manchester United are his only other option, it becomes a no-brainer.
There’s a reason nobody chooses to leave Real Madrid. I hope Gareth Bale realises that, before he makes a grave mistake.