Gareth Bale is not happy.
Wait, you might say. He just scored two goals in the Champions League final. He’s won a third consecutive Big Ears trophy. He’s making huge money, playing in sunny Spain, on a team loaded with talent.
That’s the problem. The playing part, that is. Because he’s not. Or at least, he’s not playing as much as he thinks he ought to be. Sure, he missed nine La Liga, one Copa del Rey and four Champions League games with calf and hamstring injuries. But he’s been healthy since Christmas and he hasn’t started a Champions League since he came back. In the 21 league matches that Real have played, Bale has started on the bench for five and been pulled early in 8 others, for a total of 13 times he didn’t start and/or finish the match.
That, apparently, is why he’s muttering ominous things.
“I need to be playing week in, week out and that has not happened this season. I had an injury five, six weeks in but fit ever since. I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it.”
The obvious downside is that he’d be massively expensive and he’ll be 29 years-old in July. For a club that’s counting pennies and for a player who relies heavily on his pace, those are not encouraging facts. His history of injuries isn’t exactly encouraging, either. In addition to the 14 games he missed this campaign, he also missed 25 in all comps last term and 15 the season before that.
On the other hand, he sure would provide an upgrade on 13-goal Willian, who’s a year older and looks closer to leaving Chelsea (Conte or no Conte) than at any point in the last few years. Bale is a known quantity, already proven in the Premier League and could add a serious scoring punch to a team distinctly lacking in finishers at the moment.
Bale’s overhead worldie, the winning goal in the Champions League final, is surely a shoo-in for this year’s FIFA Puskás Award.
“Obviously I was very disappointed not to start the game, I felt I deserved it but the manager makes the decisions. The best I have been doing is to come on and make an impact, I certainly did.
”It has to be the best goal in a Champions League final, there is no bigger stage. I am just happy to get the win.
”It is a team game but when you are a substitute, it is a game of more than 11 players. I made an impact.”
-Gareth Bale; source: BT Sport via BBC
Despite missing time and not finishing games, the Welshman scored 21 goals this season. Last season the injuries took too much time away and he only got nine. But the season before that he got 21, before that 17, before that 22 (in 2013-14). It may be easier to score in La Liga when playing for one of the big two, but Bale also got 26 goals in his last season for Spurs in 2012-13.
Of course, this may all be fruitless speculation. Maybe Bale wasn’t putting himself on the market but was instead trying to cajole Zinedine Zidane into giving him the minutes he thinks he deserves next season. But doing so after winning the biggest trophy in club football for his team will guarantee plenty rumor mill action either way. Chelsea could do worse than taking notice and keeping an eye on the situation.