Gareth Bale’s preference for not travelling to Manchester for tonight’s Champions League last-16 second leg was based entirely on an understanding that he had no chance whatsoever of playing a single minute in the game.
Conversations between the player and coach Zinedine Zidane, and the fact that Bale had not been given a single minute in any of the last seven games of the season, made it clear to him that he would not be involved.
Zidane’s public admission that the player ‘preferred not to play’ puts Bale’s future under an even more intense spotlight but Sportsmail understands he remains no closer to the exit.
Neither Madrid nor the player expect a club to come forward in the current climate and offer him a project that would interest him for money that both he and Real Madrid would accept.
The four-times Champions League winner would want a Champions League team if his move was to take him to another European club.
But Madrid president Florentino Perez, who remains a Bale fan, will not strengthen a direct European rival without receiving a transfer fee and there is no expectation that a club will come in with an acceptable offer and a salary offer that matches the €19million-a-season deal he has at Madrid.
The alternative is the offer from an emerging league but when Jiangsu Suning convinced Bale to join them in the China Super League last summer, Real Madrid u-turned on allowing him to leave for free.
Madrid have no problems with Bale’s attitude in training and the player himself feels that he trained well enough in the run-in to be used far more than he was – he played 102 minutes in 11 games.
He has scored two goals in 16 starts this season. Eden Hazard, who could start tonight against Manchester City, has one goal in 16 starts.