What next for Gareth Bale? All you need to know about potential Real Madrid exit
Why is Bale out of favour? What has been said? What do the fans think? Where could the Wales international go if he leaves the Bernabeu?
By Zinny Boswell and Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 23/05/19 10:20am
After Real Madrid fans voted in favour of Gareth Bale leaving Real Madrid this summer, we take a look at the Welshman's situation in the Spanish capital...
Real fans vote for Bale to leave
The Madrid-based sports newspaper AS asked Real fans to vote on which players they wanted to stay or go after what has been a disappointing campaign for Zinedine Zidane's side.
Nearly five million votes were cast - and it was a miserable result for Bale.
91 per cent of Real Madrid fans that voted said they want the Welsh international to leave the club.
It was by far the most negative result from the poll, less than a year after his two goals in the Champions League final against Liverpool helped the Spanish club to a fourth win in five years.
Have your say
The Real Madrid fans have had their say, now it's YOUR turn...
'Bale could outlast Zidane at Madrid'
Bale could outlast Zidane at Real Madrid and is unlikely to be forced out of the Bernabeu this summer, according to Spanish football expert Graham Hunter.
Zidane has made clear his intentions with Bale on Sunday, saying the forward "does not fit" in his team after leaving him on the bench for Real Madrid's final-day 2-0 defeat to Real Betis at the Bernabeu.
Zidane: Bale does not fit in my team
Zinedine Zidane has admitted Gareth Bale does not fit in his Real Madrid team amid reports the Welshman is set to leave the Bernabeu this summer.
"As a coach he does not fancy him much", Hunter told Sky Sports News.
Bale's prospects at Real look bleak under Zidane, but Hunter says the Welshman's "favourite option" is to remain in the Spanish capital.
"He wants to stay," added Hunter. "There isn't a club anywhere right now that he finds as appetising as life at Real Madrid.
"The shrewdsters will be saying with three more years on his contract, Gareth Bale is within his rights to say, 'I'm honouring my contract' and given that it's Real Madrid and how shockingly they are playing right now, he might even outlast the coach.
"The quality of football, up until this season, has been very good and he is well within his right to say, 'stuff you, I'm not moving'.
"Madrid are an absolute shambles right now. They have never finished further behind Barcelona in the history of the club.
"They want to ship out about half the squad. They think of Bale as a massive draw on their overall wages, they still - I think mistakenly - think they can get their money back for him, like they did with Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Therefore, they are employing bully-boy tactics with the media, dropping him from the squad sometimes and from the team as well."
Real's nuclear option
Hunter admits Real's hands are, for the most part, tied with regard to Bale's future. But he recalled one instance the club were able to rid themselves of an unwanted player back in 1999.
"There is no way Real can ultimately force him out, unless they say, 'you won't even get a playing place'," he said.
"That's the one big blow that remains for Real Madrid - which they did once to Robert Jarni (a Croatian wing-back who played at World Cup '98 before spending a season at Real) - to say, 'we won't register you'. That's the one thing that is left."
Analysis: Why is Bale out of favour?
Sky Sports' Nick Wright: The tensions with Zidane have been simmering for over a year now.
Zidane described Bale as a "key player" following his appointment in January 2016 and the Welshman remained a guaranteed starter throughout his first year in charge, but the dynamic began to shift soon after that. In April 2017, Zidane was said to be unimpressed when Bale declared himself fit for a meeting with Barcelona only to be forced off with an injury before half time. It was one of the first signs of trouble.
Bale did not return to action until that year's Champions League final against Juventus, where he had to settle for a place on the bench, and in the following season it soon became clear that his status had diminished. Injuries did not help, but the biggest factor was Zidane's decision to switch to a 4-4-2 system. The 'BBC' front three was broken up and Bale was the man to make way.
It was in the big European games that Zidane's loss of faith in Bale became most apparent. The Welshman was named as a substitute for both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain, showing his disillusionment by heading down the tunnel without joining his team-mates to acknowledge Madrid supporters after both games.
Bale had starting opportunities in La Liga, but Zidane continued to overlook him in the Champions League. In the quarter-final against Juventus and the semi against Bayern Munich, he played just 86 minutes of a possible 360. Then, despite scoring four goals in his final three La Liga appearances of the season, he found himself back on the bench in Kiev, although he came off the bench to put in a match-winning display against Liverpool in the final.
Zidane's departure, coupled with that of Ronaldo, was supposed to thrust Bale to the forefront this season, but instead his star has fallen further. His apparent reluctance to socialise with team-mates or communicate in Spanish has not endeared him to fans, who have booed him on numerous occasions, or to the Spanish press, who criticise him frequently.
Bale hasn't featured for Real Madrid since their 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano on April 28. He has played just 473 minutes out of a possible 990 since Zidane's return and it is now difficult to see how the Welshman fits into it all. He has won every trophy going at Real Madrid and it is only a year since his match-winning heroics in the Champions League final, but time is surely running out for him now.
What has Zidane said?
Bale was left on the bench for the duration of Real Madrid's 2-0 home defeat to Real Betis on Sunday and as previously mentioned, Zidane admitted Bale does not fit into his plans.
When asked about Bale leaving the Bernabeu after the defeat to Betis, Zidane said: "I don't know if it's the last game or not. I don't know what's going to happen.
"I'm sorry he didn't get to play, but no one knows what will happen. If I think a player doesn't fit in the team I have to do what I think works best.
"No one can change what Bale has done for the team, but as a coach I have to live in the present. I have counted on other players more in recent weeks. I make these decisions when it is right to do so, and I must act in the best interests of the team at all times."
What has Bale said?
We've not heard directly from Bale, but the Wales international's agent has suggested he wants to stay at Real Madrid.
Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett told Sky Sports News: "He wants to stay. I am not sure that Mr Zidane wants him to stay but at the moment Gareth wants to stay.
"He has got a contract, he will quite happily see it out until 2022. He has been and is, in my opinion, one of the top three or four players in the world.
"This game is a game of opinions and Mr Zidane doesn't think that. That is his opinion, he is entitled to it, I won't criticise him."
Where could he go?
If he doesn't stay in Madrid what could be the Welshman's next move?
The decision Bale makes in the next few months could define his career - make the wrong move at the age of 30 and a glittering career could end with a whimper.
Bale will surely be looking at his former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo and what he's achieved despite his advancing years. Ronaldo has continued to make a difference at the elite level, scoring goals, winning trophies - Bale, a hugely motivated individual and a serial winner, will want to tread the same path. Make no mistake, Bale has at least four or five years left at full throttle.
Manchester United have a long-standing interest in Bale. Former boss David Moyes revealed United had a helicopter ready to bring Bale to Old Trafford as they attempted to secure his signature before Real Madrid swooped.
Despite talk of changing their recent transfer policy to focusing on young talent, United would be one of a few clubs with the financial muscle and infrastructure to complete such a monstrous transfer deal.
How about a move back to Tottenham? Would it be difficult to go back? The club is a very different one to the one Bale left in 2013, one very upwardly mobile, but their recent transfer policy suggests they'd struggle to accommodate Bale's needs financially.
Transfer target: Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale has been linked with Manchester United or a return to Tottenham after Zinedine Zidane claimed the Welshman "did not fit" in his team - but would he be worth the hefty price tag?
If Bale deemed the Premier League too psychically demanding for his ageing legs, perhaps a move to PSG or even to China may tempt the Welshman, who was treated like a god when Wales faced China last season.
Sky Sports pundit Liam Rosenior, speaking on The Debate in March, thinks Bale's next destination is likely to be either Manchester United or Spurs.
"Manchester United and Tottenham are the two that stick out in the Premier League. Those two clubs are looking to push on. Signing for Tottenham would be a huge statement for that football club. One of the biggest statement signings you could make. He's got a great connection with the fans - why not make him that marquee signing? That deal makes more sense than it looks on first viewing."
Sky Bet odds: Bale's next club
- Manchester United: 8/15
- Tottenham: 9/2
- PSG: 7/1
- Any Chinese club: 8/1
- Bayern Munich: 8/1
- Liverpool: 14/1
- Wolves: 16/1
- Inter Milan: 18/1
- Juventus: 18/1
- Everton: 25/1
- Manchester City: 25/1
Has Bale's time at Real been a success?
"No one can change what Bale has done for the team, but as a coach I have to live in the present," said Zidane following his side's 2-0 defeat to Real Betis on Sunday.
They may have their differences but not even Zidane can deny the success Bale has had at the Bernabeu.
During the six years he's spent at the Bernabeu following his then-world-record move from Tottenham for £85m, he's had four Champions League successes. He's also won a La Liga title and lifted the Copa del Rey, while there's also been a Spanish Super Cup win, three UEFA Super Cups and four FIFA Club World Cups.
Back in February, Bale scored his 100th goal for the club, hitting his side's third in a 3-1 win over rivals Atletico Madrid. Add to that the two goals he scored in last season's Champions league final - a 3-1 win over Liverpool - plus his stunning individual strike that sealed Copa del Rey glory in 2014 against Barcelona and it's hard to deny the impact the Welshman has had in the Spanish capital.
No other British player has won more major titles or scored more top-flight goals abroad than the Wales international.
Follow the Summer Transfer Window on Sky Sports
As well as keeping an eye on Sky Sports News, make sure you don't miss a thing with our dedicated Transfer Centre blog.
There's also the return of the Transfer Talk Podcast, the daily UK, Regional and European Paper Talk, plus features across skysports.com and the Sky Sports App.
If reading on skysports.com, comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'.