Sport Soccer

Wednesday 21 August 2019

David Kelly: 'Bale can have final chance at happiness but only if United share his 'dream''


Gareth Bale: Trapped in curious limbo. Photo: Getty Images
Gareth Bale: Trapped in curious limbo. Photo: Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

Zinedine Zidane would not have appreciated the irony; Gareth Bale even less so.

For we must presume that now, as he once did before, Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid president, has flexed his considerable muscle by muting the Chinese whispers which had, it seemed, almost certainly heralded the natural end of the irretrievably damaged relationship between the manager and player.

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And so, without moving an inch - not that he has moved an awful lot of late, in fairness - and despite his apparent disinterest in prolonging his career at the highest level, the marooned Bale may propel a remarkable butterfly effect on European football as the new season edges closer.

The immediate impact will be to energise the obvious mutual interest between Paul Pogba and Madrid that has simmered none too subtly for some time now, predominantly voiced from the player's side. But it seems that any activity may be predicated upon ending Bale's inactivity.

Zidane quit Madrid when he was over-ruled about Bale's future once before and, while that prospect is unlikely this time, the ramifications still have the potential to be significant.

And, regardless of Zidane's assumption of authority, now once more undermined, or indeed that of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, who has stoutly declared his independence on all matters concerning summer transfers, the reality is that neither man may have ultimate control as the August 8 summer transfer window closure looms.

Despite the willingness of Pogba, philanthropic chap that he is, to drop his wage demands if allowed to join Madrid, Solksjaer, who in any event has re-affirmed his intention to build a young team around the fitful Frenchman, will not be so accommodating.

With the clock ticking, however, he may not have any option. And the increasing uncertainty surrounding the future of Romelu Lukaku, another lavishly unfulfilled United player itching for the exit door, adds even more intrigue.

Another millionaire misfit who may become embroiled in the scenario is Alexis Sanchez; for many in Manchester, his experience is stark evidence of the high price to be paid for indulging in extravagant excess.

Swapping one flop for another, they might argue, would be folly. And yet the very fact that the sums involved in the merry-go-round are so preposterous is perhaps itself a reason why some accommodation will be necessary.

Pogba's departure may not be widely mourned but fans will be hardly cheered by the prospect should an injury-prone 30-year-old with limited game-time in the last four seasons be recruited.

Bale himself may dream of such a move but, even though the last four managers at Old Trafford all tried at some stage to recruit him, few supporters retain the interest that burned brightest when the Welshman first caught Alex Ferguson's admiring glances as a teenager with Southampton. United are a different club now, struggling to reverse the post-Ferguson decline amidst managerial mayhem and a series of spectacularly ill-judged spending splurges.

Bale's would be merely another, with neither his recent form nor that of the Manchester club offering any conviction that the arrangement might hold out the prospect of success; if anything, it may resemble just another reckless gamble.

If there were a guarantee that his frail body might sustain the rigours of a return to English football, it may just be a punt worth taking for a side who desperately seek a return to the Champions League at the very least.

When Louis van Gaal was interested in Bale, one former United player suggested Bale could have an impact at United similar to Eric Cantona a generation ago. But that was then. In 2019, Bale could become another Fred.

Now cast as a symbol of soccer's often wanton excess, it seems quite poignant to see him simply fade into obscurity.

His agent now appears to be in as much control of his career as the Madrid president is, such that a loan deal anywhere now looks more unlikely than ever.

Others may move this summer but he may not.

Once one of the world's best, and still one of the world's best-paid, he is unwanted, trapped in a curious state of limbo; Bale relationship with his sport is the embodiment of an empty love affair.

A move to United could rekindle it if either were brave enough to take the chance.

Irish Independent

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