No wonder Gareth Bale is frustrated. He would be a guaranteed starter at any club in the world – except, it seems, his current employers – and it is that lack of game time that is making him consider his Real Madrid future.
At 28, he still has five good years ahead of him and he must feel that he has so much more to offer than he has had the opportunity to show. His star turn off the bench in Saturdays Champions League final win over Liverpool underlined that point.
For a player who cost £85m and is reported to earn £300,000 per week after tax there are only a handful of potential suitors but, for a number of reasons, if Bale leaves Spain this summer Manchester United look to be by far the most obvious destination.
I dont see the Welshman at Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern Munich. He has done his spell abroad and, although he has largely thrived, there has been the odd question about the extent to which he has learned Spanish and how fully he has integrated in Madrid.
Manchester City, another of the few feasible destinations, have put a strong emphasis on signing younger players, notably in the wide forward positions that Bale tends to play in – Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, for example. He can also play centrally of course, and Sergio Aguero isnt getting any younger either, but signing a player of 28 or 29, as Bale will be by next season, wouldnt fit their mould.
Tottenham appear to have been ruled out of the running due to the sums involved, and in any case I dont believe returning to his former club would be a good idea. When you go back somewhere you know whats required and that doesnt drive you on, which leads to stagnation.
United, on the other hand, seem a perfect fit. He knows the Premier League and would expect to hit the ground running at Old Trafford. It represents a real challenge: can he get the club winning Premier League and Champions League titles again? That must be attractive.
Bale is also just what United could do with. They are on a mission to be the biggest club in the world, so what better way than by signing someone of his stature from one of their rivals for that title? It would send out the right message: that theyre serious about being the best again.
Its true that United also have a few attacking players in wide areas, including Alexis Sanchez, who they committed big money to signing in January. But others, like Anthony Martial, will probably move and that will free up places in the squad – and wages.
Would Bale work well with Jose Mourinho? I dont know. And I think Mourinho needs to bring in a new No2, someone who is a brilliant coach and can free him up to focus on making United a happier camp.
I think that the game is moving on, that coaches like Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte relate well to their team in a way that Mourinho has struggled to lately because, as distinguished ex-players, they have been there and done it themselves. When you look at some of Mourinhos comments about his players, you sense he is disconnected.
The success of the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane has shown the way. And its one of the reasons why I think the doors are opening for other former players, such as Steven Gerrard at Rangers and Frank Lampard, who could take charge at Derby. It helps that management is much more lucrative now too.
But for Bale, the allure would be United, not Mourinho. They need more goals; he can provide them. And the timing looks perfect for all parties.