The Welsh star had completely overshadowed Ronaldo by starring as the match-winner in the Champions League final, before Ronaldo tried to overshadow everyone
Not for the first time at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale found themselves occupying the same space, causing a few complications for Real Madrid.
The Welsh star had completely overshadowed Ronaldo by starring as the match-winner in the Champions League final, before Ronaldo tried to overshadow everyone by so transparently casting doubt on his Bernabeu future, only for Bale to do precisely that regarding his own.
Bale’s comments were much more justifiable and clearly understandable because he was directly asked and his uncertain status was a key part of the story of his performance in Kiev, but it is now a situation that could be even more difficult to clear up.
The bottom line is this. Partly because Ronaldo and Bale have not interlinked as players as easily as many might have expected from their half-decade together at the Bernabeu, their futures are now even more interlinked. One is dependent on the other.
That also means there is one easier solution. If Ronaldo is serious about wanting to go, his departure would leave an obvious place for Bale, who could become his long-term successor – both in position and status – in the manner Madrid president Florentino Perez initially intended.
That makes it easier, but not necessarily easy.
For a start, there is obvious doubt about how much Ronaldo meant what he said, and that’s not because he immediately backtracked due to the negative reaction – not least from his captain, Sergio Ramos. That is because of the main reason for that negative reaction: we’ve been through this so many times before with Ronaldo. It’s just got tedious. Some around Madrid were even openly predicting it would be an issue immediately after the final. It’s just the latest power play, and that despite the Portuguese legend being awarded a ludicrously good contract – maybe the best for a player ever seen in the game, given his advancing age – just last year.
And if he is for once serious, there is another problem that is also an issue for Bale, and is what much of this is about.
While players of the status of Ronaldo and Bale have so greatly benefitted from the last decade’s economic stratification of the game, one negative is that it greatly limits the number of clubs they can go to. It’s the same for managers like Antonio Conte. There are only about seven or eight clubs who can afford them or match what they’d want in terms of ambition, and that would also require gaps or opportunities in their squads.
Manchester United have long been mooted as potential destinations for both players, but the Old Trafford hierarchy have grown wearier of Ronaldo’s posturing than Madrid and would no longer want him at his age, while the signing of Alexis Sanchez has negated the need for someone like Bale. There’s also the fact that Bale himself is 28, so it would require a drastic reduction in his demands to make happen, as would be the case with Tottenham Hotspur.
Those close to the situation don’t really expect the player to return to White Hart Lane, but Spurs are monitoring developments, and nobody connected is completely ruling it out.
A lot will become clearer this week when Bale’s representatives sit down with Perez. While Perez is a huge fan of the Welsh star, some close to him suspect Zidane is not, although there remains the possibility that the manager will merely be instructed to use him more.
Bale does need guarantees, though, even as Madrid make no guarantees that they will sell him if he doesn’t. That is little more than a negotiating position from a club better at that than almost anyone in the market but it still adds a level of complication to it all.
Ronaldo himself has promised he will speak in the next week – conspicuously, when on international duty and there is that bit more freedom – but that is not guaranteed to make things easier.
There’s then the shadow of Neymar, who Madrid so want to purchase. Paris Saint-Germain had similarly been held up as the transfer solution for so many big clubs suddenly selling – or, alternatively, as the threat for players who want better deals – but they are now in the position where they want to keep who they’ve got rather than buy.
This whole story is likely to rumble as long as that saga, and won’t be any easier. Watch this space, that is once again a little too congested for both Bale and Ronaldo.