We were all watching the madness of the Champions League final unfold before our very eyes, and if you weren’t you missed a cracker. As Karius chaos allowed Karim Benzema to take the lead before Sadio Mané’s quick thinking brought the game level, on stepped the fourth most expensive player in football history and not a bad substitute to have at your disposal. On stepped one of the hottest names in world football. On stepped Gareth Bale.
And what happened next was miraculous. Two minutes into the Welshman’s arrival onto the biggest stage in European Club football and with just his fifth touch you could hear the deafening silence around the world as people’s jaws dropped in awe of what had just happened. Marcelo’s ball from the right was an ambitious one, but for Bale he saw the opportunity and well and truly took it. As the ball was a mere 6 foot 6’ in the air he took flight and connected with a spectacular overhead kick in what will go down in Champions League history as one of the greatest goals ever.
19 minutes later and Bale then became only the second British player ever to score a brace in a European Cup/Champions League final after the great Bobby Charlton for Manchester United back in 1968. This one may not have been so spectacular, as most people including the German himself will say Karius should’ve saved what was a shot straight at him and was surely directly influenced by the first in which his confidence was shattered, but for Bale this one will have meant just as much. This 83rd minute goal secured Real Madrid’s 13th Champions League, their third in a row and Bale’s fourth in five seasons in what has been a strangely successful yet difficult time at Los Blancos for him.
What this meant after the game is an enhanced speculation of where the Champions League hero will be next campaign, and this is a summer saga set to continue.
In a very insightful and honest post-match interview, Bale expressed his clear discontent at his current role in Zidane’s setup saying: “In my head I felt like I should start, I felt like I’d been playing well enough to start… I was very disappointed to hear that I wasn’t”.
When questioned about his future he added: “I feel that I need to be playing every week… It’s something that I feel like I should be doing and if it’s not the case here (Madrid) it’s something I really need to consider…. I’ll do that in the summer and sit down and reflect on things”.
So, what are the latest rumours to have come from Saturday’s man-of-the-match performance?
In a recent Twitter poll published today by Sky Sports News asking where the ‘Bale Force’ will be playing his football next season, the majority of 45% of people voted for Manchester United, with 33% saying Real Madrid, 14% PSG and 8% thinking Manchester City will be his destination. Maybe this is just wishful thinking from a large Red Devil fanbase with a huge social media power, or maybe this is a reflection of the amount of times Bale has been linked with a trip to Old Trafford in recent times. It has also been reported that it will take a transfer record-breaking £200 million to prize him away from the Bernabéu, which shows why it is only the richest names in global club football being given a chance at acquiring the star asset.
Spurs have been clever in their contract when selling their star back in 2013 for £85 million having a clause in which they are able to match any accepted bid from a Premier League side, but Bale does still have a current contract at the Spanish giants until 2022 with a staggering wage of over 400,000 a week after tax, so will probably be out of most club’s financial reach.
Manchester City seem to be after Riyad Mahrez, while Chelsea’s managerial merry-go round will be more pressing to them at the moment.
Elsewhere the European giants of PSG, Bayern Munich and Juventus will keep their hats in the ring and are the only other teams with the budget and prominence to give the transfer target something to think about.
Of course, Bale isn’t the only Madrid superstar to be linked with leaving the club this summer, and his counterpart of none other than Cristiano Ronaldo has expressed his annoyance at his strained relationship with the club’s president. Maybe with his fifth Champions League title secured it’ll be his time to move on, and maybe this would change Bale’s mind if he were to play more of a vital role in Zidane’s plans.
It’s set to be an important and difficult summer for the Champions League winner, but whatever happens there’s no doubt that Bale’s brilliance has put his name back on everyone’s lips. Will he move on and start the next chapter in his story or will things change for him at Madrid? Time will tell.
Should Gareth Bale be looking to leave Madrid? Or should he stay and fight for his place? Let me know in the forums!
Images within the piece courtesy of Getty Images
Featured Image created by Charlie Pumfrey