Bale's time at Madrid is up but there aren't many suitors for the Welshman
"We hope he leaves soon. It would be best for everyone, "declared the Real Madrid coach after his team's 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich in Houston on Saturday. These comments seemed to suggest that a transfer is close.
Bale's agent, Jonathan Barnett, then responded by calling Zidane "a disgrace." So one would assume there is just no way back from here.
Those of us covering the Houston game for ESPN were given a big clue that something was amiss about 45 minutes before kickoff. At that point, word filtered down that Bale, originally in the squad as a possible substitute, would not be involved, and given the troubled nature of his relationship with Zidane, it seemed unlikely that an injury had caused his exclusion.
Clearly Zidane's patience has run out with a player he sees playing no part in Real's revival. A Bale move to Paris Saint-Germain in a deal that would see Neymar arrive at the Bernabeu is being mooted. It doesn't quite add up, though, as Real have just splashed €100 million to sign Eden Hazard from Chelsea for the exact left-sided attacking role that is Neymar's specialty.
It also flies in the face of the reports that Paul Pogba is Real 's top target at £200m. That said, Madrid president Florentino Perez has always loved doing anything to annoy Barcelona, and signing their former star Neymar would certainly do the trick.
Some kind of swap plus cash deal with Manchester United would make sense, provided that Bale fancies the Europa League and becoming the torch-bearer for a club battling through troubled times. It is just as likely he does not.
But the timing of all this is intriguing. Is it a coincidence that this sudden twist in the saga happened to be when Real and Bayern Munich executives were in the same town for their ICC match? Remembering Bayern's frustration in trying to sign Leroy Sane from Manchester City, a move for Bale to play out wide would make sense from a football point of view.
The Germans, now without Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, might see Bale, 30, as the kind of marquee name to put them back among the Champions League favourites. Whether a man who has never mastered Spanish would relish a move to Germany is another matter altogether, though.
-- Sources: Madrid would let Bale go to China for free
What about Tottenham? A return to Spurs might hold some appeal and would keep the Welshman in the Champions League. But even that ship may have sailed at this stage.
Who else could afford the wages? Outside of the European elite, there is China, with Beijing Guoan and Jiangsu Suning reportedly interested. But is a boatload of money enough for Bale to consider a huge step down in competition on the field and a massive culture shock off of it?
In other words, the list of suitors for the Welshman is small.
In any event, Zidane is surely right in saying it's time for a change for a player who has lost his way at Real. At 30, and after a long list of injuries, it is relevant to wonder whether Bale has quite the same hunger and desire as he once did.
Can he recover the deadly form that devastated defenders in his pomp? That's the question potential suitors will be asking themselves.
If Zidane is right, we might know more very soon.