Gareth Bale finally closing on Real Madrid exit with Tottenham in talks to sign Wales attacker

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Gareth Bale, once the world’s most expensive footballer and the British player who has achieved more than any other with a club abroad, is close to returning to England and bringing to an end a saga at Real Madrid that turned sour.

Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, who sold Bale to Madrid for £85 million (Dh402m) in 2013, are hopeful of bringing him back to North London.

Talks between Spurs and Madrid advanced on Wednesday, initially about a loan deal, which has the blessing of Bale, although the player’s representative described negotiations as “complicated”.

The principal sticking points have been the proportion of Bale’s huge salary that Tottenham would agree to fund during any loan. The Welshman, who won four Champions League titles with Madrid before he fell out of favour, is believed to earn around £600,000 per week.

That is well over twice the wage of Spurs’s top earner, Harry Kane, but Tottenham are willing to shatter their salary ceiling for what they consider a unique set of circumstances.

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho has been pushing for the addition of a high-class goalscorer in this transfer window, which is open until early October, and the arrival of Bale would be a popular homecoming in the eyes of many Tottenham supporters.

He became a superstar in the Spurs jersey, having joined the club as a 17-year-old from Southampton, and led a revival, helping Spurs to qualify for the Champions League for first time during his six seasons there.

He was twice voted Footballer of the Year by his peers in England– 2011 and '13, – reward for thrilling performances as an striker with electric speed, strength and poise in the penalty area, and expertise with a dead ball.

“There’s no reason why he can’t carry on where he left off,” said Harry Redknapp, who was Spurs manager during Bale’s rise.

But Bale, now 31, has barely had the opportunity to show he remains world-class over the last 12 months.

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Bale's greatest goals for Real

September 2013: Villarreal v Real Madrid – debut goal. After the start to his Real Madrid career was disrupted by injury, Gareth Bale scored his first goal for his new club against Villarreal in a La Liga game at El Madrigal Stadium. Getty

November 2013: Real Madrid v Real Valldolid – the perfect hat-trick. Bale started to realise the demands of Real Madrid fans after being criticised for his display in the Clasico defeat to Barcelona in October. He responded by going on a red-hot run of goalscoring form, which included his first Madrid treble in a 4-0 win over Valladolid. It was a perfect hat-trick, too: left foot, right foot, header. Getty

April 2014: Real Madrid v Barcelona - Copa del Rey final winner. The crowning moment of Bale’s debut season at Real Madrid. With the score level at 1-1, Bale scored one of the greatest goals in Spanish football history, burning Barcelona defender Marc Bartra for pace, sprinting half the pitch, before sliding the ball home for an 85th minute winner. Getty

May 2014: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - Champions League final goal. Bale stepped up once again on the biggest of stages. After the Champions League final seemed to be heading to penalties, Bale scored to give Real Madrid a 2-1 lead in extra time. Real went on to win 4-1 and claim their 10th European Cup. Getty

December 2014: Real Madrid v San Lorenzo - Club World Cup final goal. In a season blighted by more injury problems, Bale scored in his third major final for Real Madrid, netting the second in a 2-0 win over San Lorenzo to win the Fifa Club World Cup. Getty

December 2015: Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano - four-goal haul. Bale produced the most prolific performance of his Real Madrid career when he scored four goals in a 10-2 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. Three weeks later, he scored another hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Deportivo. Getty

May 2018: Real Madrid v Liverpool - Champions League final match-winner. Bale was finding himself increasingly marginalised by Zidane and was among the substitutes for the Champions League final against Liverpool. Called off the bench with the score at 1-1, Bale scored one of the greatest goals in Champions League history with a spectacular overhead kick. He scored again to steer Madrid to a 3-1 win and their third successive European Cup. Getty

December 2018: Fifa Club World Cup - player of the tournament. After the exit of Zidane, Bale resumed a more important role under eventual successor Santiago Solari and was central to Madrid’s Club World Cup triumph in Abu Dhabi. He scored a hat-trick in the semi-final against Kashima Antlers before Madrid beat Al Ain in the final. He was named player of the tournament. Getty

February 2019: Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid - 100th goal. On February 9, 2019 Bale became just the 15th player in Real Madrid’s history to score 100 goals for the club when he struck in a 3-1 win away to city rivals Atletico. Bale has since moved on to 102 goals, placing him 14th on Madrid’s all-time list. Getty

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In July 2019, he was told explicitly by Real manager Zinedine Zidane he could leave – “the sooner the better” according to the Frenchman.

Zidane was speaking under instruction from the club, who no longer felt Bale, who in 2016 signed a contract until 2022, was good value for his salary.

Bale was at that stage ready to consider a transfer to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League but Real would not sanction it because there was no transfer fee involved.

Zidane selected Bale sporadically last season, and in a gesture that showed the coach had no personal issue with the player, picked him to start the first three matches of the 2019-20 Liga season.

In the third of those, Bale scored both goals in a 2-2 draw against Villarreal before being sent off. That was last September; he has not scored a La Liga goal since.

Injuries account for some his absences from the Madrid team last season, and various muscular problems have hampered him during his time in Spain, notably during Zidane’s two periods in charge.

By the time Madrid finished last season, putting together a run of victories in the post-lockdown phase to win the title, Bale was a marginal figure, and on two occasions was photographed looking uninterested in the stands as his colleagues closed in on the Spanish championship.

He has been portrayed in the Spanish media as aloof and distant, as devoted to playing golf, a consuming hobby, as he is to Madrid.

When, after a match for Wales, for whom he continues to shine, he posed in front a banner that read ‘Wales, Gold, Madrid, In That Order,’ a mocking reference to what some madridistas list as his order of priorities, it made a bad impression at the Bernabeu.

CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 19: Wales celebrate at full time during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group E Qualifier match between Wales and Hungary at the Cardiff City Stadium on November 19, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)
Gareth Bale was criticised in Spain for holding up a flag after a Wales match making light of suggestions that Madrid was third on his list of priorities. Getty

Zidane has consistently spoken up for Bale’s professionalism, however, and reminded that “he has done great things for this club.”

He has 105 Madrid goals to his name. In his first season there, 2013-14, he scored a breathtaking solo goal to win the Copa del Rey.

Weeks later, he scored in extra-time of the Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid, ending Real’s 12-year wait for a European Cup.

Three more followed, including the 2016 triumph, in which Bale scored in the decisive penalty-shoot and the 2018 final, in which he came off the bench to score twice in the 3-1 win over Liverpool, the first of his goals a sensational overhead-kick.

Soon after the final whistle, he openly expressed his frustrations at not having been selected by Zidane to start that final.

More than two years on, Spurs envisage Bale as the sort of impact signing that would galvanise a season that began at the weekend with a home defeat to Everton.

On Wednesday, Mourinho pointedly took the opportunity to recall that, back in 2012 when he was still coaching Madrid, he had pushed Real to sign Bale a year earlier than they actually bought him from Spurs. “I tried and it was not possible,” said Mourinho, “I think Gareth knows that.”

Updated: September 16, 2020 06:50 PM

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