Gareth Bale’s sensational brace in the Champions League final, which secured Real Madrid their third consecutive European Cup, was one of the greatest goals in UCL history, and possibly the Welshman’s swan song for Los Blancos. Notwithstanding the sheer technical brilliance of the strike, the goal was a lone, wonderful bright spot in what had otherwise been a troubling season in a string of troubling seasons for Bale.
As always, there were injuries, weeks and months in which he was out of action, but there were also snubs – not starting versus Liverpool, confined to many substitute appearances, and the occasional start out of position. Despite these setbacks, Bale still managed to put in 16 goals this season, provided 2 assists, and in general was an output monster for the Spanish giants.
A litany of drawbacks
Bayern Munich and Manchester United, along with Tottenham Hotspur, are all interested in plucking Bale from Real Madrid, but there are some problems with the Welshman.
At 29 years old, it is very likely that Bale’s best years are behind him and his decline is coming hard and fast. Attackers, especially forwards like Bale whose defining attribute is mind-warping speed, don’t so much as age as they fall off a cliff. Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres are prime examples of this; they had a decade of consistent, world-class performances, had one good season, and then were finished. A similar transformation can be seen with Alexis Sanchez right now, who is now relying more than ever on dropping further and further back into the midfield to receive the ball and less and less time receiving the ball in the final third.
Injuries have also been a problem for Bale. His running style could best be described as “controlled violence” and it has racked up strained hamstrings and muscle problems at a steady pace. Since coming to Real Madrid, the Welshman has missed 308 days with injuries and only topped 2000 minutes in a league season once. Any team that would take him would be risking a wasted transfer, if the injuries don’t stop after leaving Spain.
What’s more, the transfer fee for Bale will be high, around the range of $100 million. The only four players to top that number have been Neymar (who is better than Bale and less injury-prone), Kylian Mbappe (who is just 20 years old and one of the top ten strikers in the world), Ousmane Dembele, and Phillipe Countihno, who were bought with the cash Barcelona recieved from Neymar’s transfer. Such high transfer fees can cripple a club; look at Chelsea after the Fernando Torres disaster. With players such as Eden Hazard, who would command a similar fee and is also three years younger, teams might not want to the risk on Bale in favor of a safer option
No time to play it safe
Of course, ‘safer’ isn’t an option for teams like Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and Tottenham. All three need to make a leap to start competing for serious trophies next year (in Bayern Munich’s case, winning the Champions League – the Bundesliga is theirs every year). Bale is one of a handful of attackers – with Messi, Neymar, Hazard, Ronaldo, and maybe Salah – that is worth upwards of twenty points in a season, and each club has a case for getting him.
Tottenham are the ones that originally sold him to Real Madrid, for a record (at the time) fee of $100 million dollars. They also have the right of first refusal; that is, if another team makes an offer for Bale, Tottenham could pay only $84 million and get him instead. The problem, though, is his wages. Bale would undoubtedly want to be paid top dollar, and Tottenham can’t compete with the other big teams in Europe in that department. Recently, however, Spurs are trying to compete a contract extension for manager Mauricio Pochettino and a big wage increase for star striker Harry Kane indicates a shift in culture at the London team.
Taking United to the next level
Bayern Munich is looking for its next Robben, and the similarities between the Welshman and the ex-Holland star are many. Both are rapid, left footed inverted wingers that have terrorized right backs for numerous years. Unfortunately, Robben is still employed by Bayern Munch, and, after loaning James Rodriguez out to Germany last season, Real Madrid will still be wary of being fleeced. It is also unlikely that the Bayern Munich will fork out the cash necessary to get Bale; the German giants prefer ripping off their Bundesliga competitors and obtaining free transfers than splashing for fancy names.
The biggest, and best fit, however is Manchester United, who struggled to 81 points this past season. Mourihno’s team has a hole at the right wing, which has been filled increasingly by Jesse Lingard this past season. He did well, providing 0.63 goals+assists every 90 minutes while providing superb defensive work rate, but the gap between him and Bale is immense. Lingard is a good squad option that can provide depth at multiple positions; a healthy Bale can spark a title run all on his own. Manchester United is also one of the few clubs in the world that could afford the transfer fee and Bale’s wage demands.
Whichever team Bale is playing at next season, whether it be Real Madrid or not, time is running out for the 29 year old. With the summer off and the bitter taste of last season in his mouth, a career defining season is before the Welshman, for better or worse.