Leading up to World Cup betting we've set our sights on the transfer market and this year's Champions League winners. As Gareth Bale lifted his fourth Champions League trophy in five years since joining Real Madrid in the summer of 2013, the Welshman became the joint-most successful Briton in European history. However, it has not been plain sailing for Bale in the past few years with Los Blancos.
While his career in Madrid got off to an emphatic start - scoring the winning goals in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals - it started to plateau due to his injury record over the past 18 months. After the final, in which Zinedine Zidane’s men beat Liverpool 3-1, Bale, for the first time, spoke candidly about his time in Madrid.
“Obviously I need to be playing week in, week out and that hasn't been happening this season, for one reason or another,” the Wales captain said. “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.”
When asked about his future and the potential to return to England in the previous few years, Bale has always taken the sting out of the questions and shown his loyalty to Madrid. However, obviously feeling aggrieved that he was not chosen to start, Bale felt that he needed to make a public statement and show his dissatisfaction with the Madrid management.
With his future in doubt, Bale, now 28 years old and in the prime of his career, could make the leap back to England and wreak havoc once again to Premier League defences. Coral's sportsbook currently offer a move to Manchester United at 2/1, while Tottenham and Chelsea are not far behind at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively.
Most skepticism from fans whose clubs are potentially looking to sign Bale this summer stems from his injury record. It appears that, year on year, the Welshman’s injuries take a worse toll on his body and he misses large parts of the season - therefore failing to record any consistency in his matches.
Bale, however, refuted those problems and has claimed he was fit enough after his five week injury at the beginning of the season, suggesting a lack of trust by manager Zidane in playing him. The risk of moving to the Spanish capital was always going to be the tug-of-war with Cristiano Ronaldo for the pivotal role in this Madrid team. With the Portugal international seemingly having more of an effect year on year, Bale’s importance has dwindled.
The former Spurs forward could yet stay at Madrid, currently priced at 10/11 to do so, if Ronaldo intends to leave for a club such as Paris Saint-Germain this summer. There has been suggestions that the all-time leading European goalscorer could move to France, but it might yet be another ploy to bump up his contract with Madrid. A common theme throughout his time in a Los Blancos jersey.
It is plain to see what Bale can offer a Premier League side: creativity, speed, intelligence, goals and, most importantly, the ability to change the game in a matter of seconds. His opening goal in Kiev suggested that. An acrobatic, overhead kick that sailed past the flailing Loris Karius will go down as one of the greatest European goals of all-time. It was a spectacular moment in history from a sensational player.
Realistically, given he has four years left to run on his contract, plus enormous wages, only a minute number of English clubs can truly afford him. Tottenham would be breaking their wage structure to fit him in, so that looks highly unlikely as it will cause a revolt from the existing players at the club. Liverpool have a wonderful front three as it is, and have other priorities this summer in midfield.
Manchester City could afford him with ease, but are keeping an eye on Kylian Mbappé’s future instead, just in case PSG have to sell due to the Financial Fair Play regulations. Arsenal might have the capital in reserves, but there is little chance that Stan Kroenke, their majority owner, releases that amount of money for one player. Which leaves Manchester United and Chelsea as the two realistic destinations in England.
The Blues, who are without a manager, have had their transfer budget restricted over the past few years by owner Roman Abramovich. With ongoing visa problems, the Russian oligarch is not present in London with the club, which may slow down any movement in the market this summer.
With Antonio Conte set to leave Chelsea this summer, they are currently in the process of vetting candidates to replace him. Maurizio Sarri is one of their first choices, but Chelsea are reluctant to pay the €8 million release clause that is in his contract. Without the lure of the Champions League as well, Bale might feel that he would be joining a club at a much lower level.
José Mourinho’s side - who are on the verge of signing Porto right back Diogo Dalot - have been attempting to recruit Bale for several years now, but with no luck. However, this might yet be the clearest indication they have received to go back in for him and turn that wish into a reality. Given Madrid have wanted David de Gea for a similar amount of time, it is likely they are to ask for Spain’s number one goalkeeper in return, which could cause an immovable obstacle in negotiations.
Man United’s priorities are clearly on their defence and midfield, but Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, has said previously he wants to sign a global heavyweight each year. Bale would certainly fit into that category. There are real reservations regarding his injury record, but, providing he can stay fit, the Welshman would elevate United’s attack into new levels.
Bale said it himself that he needs to be playing week in, week out. The wide forward is a generational talent that cannot be keeping the bench warm and entering the field sporadically. Even if it means taking a small pay cut to return to the Premier League, Bale should follow through with it and remind every one why he is one of the best players in the world.
For anyone approaching the transfer betting market this year, be sure to utilize Gambling.com's Transfer Hound to keep up with up-to-date details on trending players, team-specific pundit speculation, current rumours, confirmed deals and other football transfer news for the biggest leagues in world football.