Gareth Bale: Real Madrid must try to bring forward back into the fold, says Terry Gibson

Real Madrid must try and bring Gareth Bale back into the fold, Spanish football expert Terry Gibson has told the latest Transfer Talk podcast, but the club will be looking to sell other players.

Bale’s future at Real Madrid has once again been thrown into doubt. He was recently left out of the squad for a Champions League meeting with Manchester City, which manager Zinedine Zidane said was because Bale did not want to play.

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He only made 16 La Liga appearances for Real during their title-winning season and drew attention with some of his antics on the substitutes bench after the restart.

But Spanish football expert Gibson believes Bale will stay at the Bernabeu and the best solution is for Zidane to try and reintegrate the Welshman back into his squad.

He told the Transfer Talk podcast: “The situation is clear, they want to move him on. Zidane said it last summer, when the move to China was nearly coming off and I’m sure he regrets saying ‘the sooner he goes, the better, if he goes tomorrow that would be great for everybody’. It didn’t come out well. Eventually Bale had to come back into the squad, back into the team.

“I think he will stay at Real Madrid. They have a degree of power because we’re talking about clubs suffering financially, so if you’re Real Madrid paying €600,000 a week for Bale, sooner or later Florentino Perez has to say ‘look we can’t move him on, please Zidane can you get him playing again and let’s get some valuation from him in terms of what we’re paying him every week’. That’s the only way it can be resolved.

“I can imagine us having this conversation in a year’s time with exactly the same situation, but I can’t imagine it where Bale has disappeared. We joke about him playing golf but for him not to be involved in big games like the Man City game, for instance… I’m not saying he’s been in great form when he’s played for Real Madrid in the last couple of seasons but he’s a player you could work on. He has undoubted ability and you need to get him right mentally.

“It’s going to be hard for Zidane to put an arm around his shoulder and convince him he never wanted him to leave in the first place but they’ve both grown up, they can both deal with it and I think the only solution for Real Madrid is to try to get Gareth Bale back in the fold. I still think he’s better than what they’ve got.

“I don’t think Bale comes across as an offensive person. I don’t think he’s caused problems. You hear from team-mates, managers, no one has really had a bad word to say about him, even his Real Madrid team-mates now. Some of the stuff has been ill-advised, they’ve said about him not speaking Spanish and he does like his golf, but the players like him, respect him.

“But it still goes back to when he came off the bench and scored two goals against Liverpool [in the Champions League final]. His interview straight after the game – Zidane hasn’t forgotten it, hasn’t forgiven him for it. He wasn’t the only one – there were two or three others as well who made it clear they were glad Zidane was gone.”

‘Real plan is to sell, sell, sell’

Real Madrid are now looking towards the transfer window, although Gibson believes there will be far more departures and incomings.

He said: “Their season has ended so they’ve been able to put together a plan – and the plan is just to sell.

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“I don’t think it will weaken the squad. What they do have at the moment is 34 senior players that will report back to pre-season training. They cannot have 34, 35 players in their squad and it’s going to be a case of selling. There have been a number of players out on loan that they are going to have to move on.

“The obvious ones we know they want to move on are James Rodriguez and Bale, but there might be one or two surprises. They’ve managed to bring back Martin Odegaard, who was meant to be at Real Sociedad on a two-year loan but he did so well in the first season there that they’ve brought him back, so that would put into jeopardy the positions of – according to the Spanish press – Isco and Luka Modric.

“They have a young Japanese winger, Takefusa Kubo, who was sensational this season for Mallorca. He’s come back but he’s already been moved on loan again to Villarreal with Unai Emery – that’s a great signing by that club…. Dani Ceballos is another one, who has been on loan at Arsenal, I don’t see where he’s going to fit in at Real Madrid.

“For Real Madrid, it’s a case of sorting out those players they want to keep but not play in the team, so they’ll go back on loan or bringing players back from loans and selling them.

“Ultimately you’re looking at a team that won the league. They obviously want to do better in Europe and they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in relatively early stages. So there is room for improvement but I think with the pandemic and the finances involved, plus the massive squad they have, I don’t think we’ll see Real Madrid linked with too many of the stories we normally see them linked with.

“Allegedly after the defeat against Man City, they had a meeting with one of the clubs directors with Zidane and all the players were told that that was the position: that they’re not going to be looking to spend money, not going to be looking to bring in players during this window and that in general they were happy with the squad.

“When Real Madrid are tightening the purse strings we know there is a serious situation going on. They’re like Manchester United – they’re not getting 60,000 to 80,000 people coming into their stadium. They are doing a massive rebuilding of the Bernabeu hence the reason they played their last few matches at the training ground. Money is needed for that.

“But even the players they’re looking to sell, they’re not going to bring in vast amounts of money. If they get rid of six, seven, eight players, which is what they’re intending to do, that might add up to €200m to €300m but they’re looking to offload rather than bring players in.

“We love a bit of Galactico speculation from Real Madrid but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

‘Fati is a perfect fit for Barcelona’

One player who has caught the eye in La Liga this season is Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati, who had recently been linked with Manchester United, but Gibson says the 17-year-old is perfect for Barcelona as is midfielder Riqui Puig.

“He came into the team at the start of the season just 16 years of age and started scoring goals. He got his chance because Messi, Suarez were injured. It was almost forced upon Valverde to give him his opportunity. He’s a player who hadn’t played for the B team, he went straight from the youth team, and he’s been absolutely sensational.

“He’s now 17 and scored 8 goals in 12 starts this season. He looks sensational player. He’s a right footer who plays on the left and he’s a better fit in that position than Griezmann – it’s been a blow for Griezmann that a teenager has come in and is actually playing better. That’s made it difficult for Quique Setien to persevere with Griezmann when Fati is, at the moment, the better player in that position. That tells you how well he’s done.

“What you see with the youngsters, Riqui as well, is that they are the ideal Barcelona players. They’ve been brought through the system, so they know exactly how things work at Barcelona in terms of style of play. The difference between the players Barca bring through and the players Barca bring into the club there is huge. You can see immediately they’ve been trained to play this Barca style since they were five or six years old and if they’ve got the quality and the talent it’s a perfect fit. Fati is a perfect fit for Barcelona.

“To see him being such a reliable and important member of the squad at such a young age is just astonishing. He’s got good enough strength, fantastic technique and he’s the classic Barcelona winger as Riqui is the ultimate classic Barca midfield player – he’s the same size as Xavi,Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta and the same sort of qualities in terms of keeping possession. Those two coming through and being given their opportunity has breathed new life into the experienced squad.”

‘Barcelona shouldn’t be going into games with only three subs’

While Real Madrid are set to be a selling club this summer, Barcelona are in need of some new blood having ended the season with a depleted squad.

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Gibson said: “Barcelona have to make some changes – their squad isn’t big enough. In the second half of the season, it was down to 19 senior players and they have struggled to fill the bench in La Liga games with the allowed amount of substitutions.

“The last La Liga game of the season, they had five subs on the bench and two of them were goalkeepers. Three players got injured and were replaced and the next outfield player to come on as a sub was going to be Ter Stegen. That’s how short of numbers they were. They had suspensions, injuries and the B team had a play off match coming up. There’s no way Barcelona should be going into games with only three outfield substitutes.

“They need bodies. They’ve suffered with the fact Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti haven’t played enough football for Barcelona this season. Riqui and Fati have bolstered the squad and that’s been a big plus – in this time of need two young players have risen through the ranks and shown their worth.”

There has also been tumoil in the managerial position, with Setien taking over from Ernesto Valverde in January, but Gibson is tipping Xavi to be the next Barcelona manager.

“The elections are really prominent now in what happens at Barcelona. The elections are in a year’s time. Nobody is happy with the current board of people who run it, particularly Jose Bartomeu the president, and he will be voted out. That is the reason why Xavi turned the job down.

“Xavi is going to be on the ticket of one of the new campaigners to become the president. Therefore, Xavi doesn’t want to go in for a year with this president and not too many other managers want to go in knowing that in a year’s time a new president is going to be announced and when that new president makes his campaign, they will all have their managers that they’re putting on the ticket. Xavi if he backs one, that person will probably win.

“In a year’s time Xavi is going to be the manager of Barcelona. But which top manager in world football is really going to fancy babysitting the job for a year until the new president comes in, and you’re probably going to get fired.”

And could Ronaldo be on his way to Barcelona?…

There have been a few transfer rumours linking former Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo with Barcelona. But Gibson, while excited at the prospect, is sceptical at the likelihood.

“When I saw it I thought, ah please! Messi dropping deep, threading balls through for Ronaldo, chuck in Neymar on the wing as well and it would be fun to watch!

“Would I see it happening? Probably not. It’s pie in the sky. I’m not sure the Real Madrid connection would upset Ronaldo too much – for some sad reason when he left Real Madrid, it was under a cloud. It wasn’t how we all expected him to walk out of the Bernabeu. We expected him to stay there for his career, with 80,000 people cheering him off in his last game. That doesn’t seem to happen as much as it should at Real Madrid. All the legends seem to depart before that day happens – Iker Casillas, Raul – people who have moved on before their time.

“I was mischievously thinking, I wonder if he’s got the hump with Real still and if there is a possibility of him going to Barcelona then would he do it. It’s a big call to make with his legendary status at the Bernabeu.

“Could they afford it? Probably not. But if there was a possibility and it got the OK from Messi then they would make it happen. But I don’t think so.”

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