In April of this year, Sport Witness published an article titled ‘Gareth Bale to Manchester United: This is the summer’.
The idea was that of all the previous claims, and let’s face it they’re around every year, summer 2017 looked a pretty decent bet. Bale was then 27 years of age and coming off the back of a disappointing season, his stock was falling and Real Madrid had others with rising stars, like Isco and Marco Asensio.
Aside from all the discussion of whether Real Madrid would sell, and what the price may be, the overriding concern for many was ‘But isn’t he now injury prone and a liability?’.
In answer to that we explained: ‘What’s mainly troubling Gareth Bale right now is his calf, it’s an injury which keeps returning, and that’s probably because he keeps being rushed back. It’s been speculated in Spain that it’s related to his longer lay-off, but nearly every time Bale is rushed back there’s another issue.
Throwing Bale into El Clasico was a reckless gamble which didn’t pay off, but it did bring wider focus on the player’s fitness situation. Footballers are often ‘blamed’ for being injured, as if it’s something they’ve done wrong or a personal fault, and this situation has weakened, even if only slightly, Bale’s Real Madrid status.
If Manchester United are confident they could manage the situation better, and that a summer off rather than one playing for Wales would make a difference, then it’s not a reason to abandon the idea.’
Since then, Bale’s calf has been even more prominent, perhaps becoming a star in its own right. It’s apparently why he missed Wales’ disappointing performance against Republic of Ireland on Monday evening, looking on from the stands as his World Cup dream fell to pieces.
The Welshman’s last appearance was for Real Madrid, at the end of September, when he was Man of the Match away to Borussia Dortmund, scoring a goal and assisting another.
If there’s a blame game to be played over where the fault lies for the injury recurring so often then the fair outcome would likely be a share of the spoils, with the biggest loser being Bale and his reputation.
El Confidencial were quiet during the summer, but have a good history of being very good on the most high profile Real Madrid departures. On Tuesday they suggest Florentino Perez is reluctantly edging towards selling Bale, and Manchester United are of course mentioned as the interested team.
‘Patience begins to be threatened’ say El Confidencial, and crucially, they make a move to suggest the injury issues could be Bale’s fault.
Moving from the calf, which has been the overriding issue, and changing it to a back problem, El Confidencial say the situation is made worse when Bale plays golf, which is described as one of the footballer’s passions.
This balancing of blame for a potential exit and a Galactico gone wrong is a practise used before. Sometimes it’s involved players asking for too much money, other times it’s been partying too much and a general bad attitude, but Bale being to blame for his fitness because he plays too much golf is as good a play as they can probably pull together right now, given he’s not exactly a regular at Madrid’s nightspots.
All of this presents a chance for Jose Mourinho to pull off a huge deal he’s clearly got at least some interest in. It would be a battle of wills over price, with Perez not wanting to take a loss on his €100m, and Ed Woodward able to point to reasons to bring the figure down.
And there’s also the question of how much Manchester United would now need Bale, although if the club feel they could get him in top form and on the pitch regularly then it’s a welcome problem.
Situations can change very quickly and if Bale regains his fitness for a good spell, puts in more Man of the Match performances, and helps Real Madrid’s season flourish after a poor start, then the golf and everything else will be forgotten.
But, right now, those Real Madrid transfer wheels are being started, slowly, and Manchester United are the only claimed interest in town.