Real Madrid: What would need to happen for a Gareth Bale return?

Real Madrid, Gareth Bale (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Gareth Bale (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

After not making much of an impact to start the season, Real Madrid loanee Gareth Bale has blossomed in recent weeks at Tottenham. The return to Spurs has seemed to do Bale well, as he is clicking under Jose Mourinho and playing a key role in a talented attack that features world-class forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

Bale assisted against West Ham in late February, scored a brace and registered an assist the next game in a 4-0 win over Burnley, and then continued his great form in March with two goals in a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace. The Wales international also had two goals and an assist in 86 total minutes on the pitch during two appearances in the Europa League matchup with Wolfsberger.

In that time span, Bale has contributed more goals to Tottenham than most of Real’s forwards have throughout the entire 2020-2021 season. And that’s led some Madridistas to wonder if Los Blancos might as well just take Bale back next season.

Bale’s contract expires at the end of the 2021-2022 season. His current loan agreement with Spurs lasts for one year, and the Premier League side are reportedly paying half of his wages. He earns nearly 700,000 euros per week, which is a hefty sum and, if left on the books, could impede Los Blancos from signing a superstar like Kylian Mbappe or even Cristiano Ronaldo this summer.

Gareth Bale’s relationship with Real Madrid is the key factor

But is it possible for Real to swallow this salary and keep Bale next season? If they cannot find a suitor on a permanent transfer or wage-split loan, as with Tottenham this season, then they may have no choice. Given Bale’s recent run of form, it’s reasonable to expect that Real will be able to find a landing spot, with Spurs likely being the favorites due to the familiarity.

Aside from the wages, there is the matter of the relationship between Bale and Zinedine Zidane. Only those two can say with certainty how their relationship is and if they can continue working together in the future. There are stories in the media, but those are just that – stories. If Bale feels he can still work with Zidane and perform at a high level in Madrid, then there is no issue. But if Bale is reluctant and feels more comfortable in Tottenham, then that is understandable. And from Real’s perspective, it wouldn’t make sense to pay nearly 30 million euros for a player who isn’t going to be able to perform in a situation that no longer suits him.

Of course, we have seen Bale accomplish great things at Real Madrid in the past, even amidst intense scrutiny and pressure. Who else remembers Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous “leave him alone” press conference, urging the media to give Bale space? Unfortunately, it does not seem like anyone else right now will take on that responsibility to protect Bale, though some will argue that at 31, an experienced club legend like Bale does not need protection. I would disagree, but my opinion is immaterial. The only opinion that matters is Bale’s.

If we are solely talking about football and moving our discussion away from these crucial, intangible details, what kinds of performances would Bale need to have at Spurs in order to indicate “Madrid quality”?

I’d like to see him shine against higher-quality opposition. Bale’s goals have mostly come against lower-level Europa League sides and struggling teams in the Premier League like Palace, Burnley, and Brighton. All three of those teams are in the bottom half of the table. Now, Madridistas, out of everyone, will point out that all goals are important, considering how badly this team has struggled against lower-table opposition in La Liga. But La Liga is different tactically in terms of how their lower-table teams play.

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So consistency matters when it comes to Bale. He must finish the season strong, and Real must feel they are left with no other alternatives. Then, if Bale and Real can get on the same page, I do not think a reunion is impossible. It is extremely unlikely, though, given the finances and what transpired last season. The best thing is if Bale continues to perform at a high level and stays at Spurs. But in football, especially when transfers are concerned, nothing can be written off 100 percent.