Friday 23 February 2018

Gareth Bale move to Manchester United 'much likelier' than ever before

Gareth Bale is a target of Manchester United
Gareth Bale is a target of Manchester United

Miguel Delaney

Gareth Bale is willing to move to Manchester United in the summer if Real Madrid finally decide to sell him.

While the Old Trafford hierarchy have been keen on the Welsh star for some time, manager Jose Mourinho is still undecided, especially since his first preference for a marquee signing this summer is Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.

The long-mooted big-money transfer is still subject to a few issues, but The Independent has been told by sources from both clubs that a deal is “much likelier” than at any point in Bale’s time at the Bernabeu.

United officials are currently working exceptionally hard to deliver the key signings to make the Portuguese’s team champions next season, and are at the point where a number of different options are being broached or investigated every day.

Only three targets have so far seen any kind of significant progress, though, and they are Griezmann, Torino’s Andrea Belotti and Burnley’s Michael Keane.

Signing the Atletico striker remains the primary aim, but United have found the situation difficult, and have gone back and forth in terms of alternative options. It also remains up in the air whether Griezmann will even leave Diego Simeone’s side this summer.

If he doesn’t, United would be forced to look for a different star in accordance with the current commercial policy of looking to sign one every summer, with few names really available. This is why Neymar has been mentioned with seriousness at boardroom level, and why Bale could represent a solution.

Real president Florentino Perez remains a huge fan of the 27-year-old, since he was signed at the Bernabeu chief’s insistence, and would be very reluctant to let him go. It has not escaped notice that Zinedine Zidane’s team has fitted together much better and been more cohesive since Bale got injured in the 3-2 defeat to Barcelona on 23 April, with stand-in Isco appearing to have a much more natural place in the side.

Real sources say that other influential figures at the club feel that Bale could be sacrificed, and have been trying to persuade Perez of that, especially if they want to fund other transfer plans for the club in the summer. The player himself is enjoying his time time at Madrid, but is said to be open to the idea of Old Trafford.

Depending on those dominoes falling, any deal could end up coming down to Mourinho’s decision, since the United manager is said to still be making up his mind in that regard. The Portuguese obviously thinks Bale is a supreme player, but he wants Griezmann more than anyone, and wants to go 100 per cent for the French forward for the summer’s big-name signing.

Super-wealthy as United are, they are unlikely to buy two marquee stars for mega-money, and it could come down to a straight choice if the deal with Atletico becomes any more complicated. Bale would also play in a wider role than Griezmann, but Mourinho’s ideal for that position is his former Chelsea signing, Willian. The United boss would take Willian there above anyone else, and they could be willing to see if a deal can be struck with Stamford Bridge in the summer.

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Independent News Service

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