Wednesday 22 November 2017 / 01:55 AM

TIMING COULD BE RIGHT FOR BALE’S EPL RETURN

If you’ve been reading the gossip columns this week, you’ll have seen the rumour that Real Madrid are now prepared to ‘listen to offers’ for Gareth Bale, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham all interested in the forward.

Now, your first reaction might be the same as mine: it’s international week, the media don’t know what to write about, so they come up with something simple they can rehash to sell some papers.

But is that too cynical?

The reality is that when non-native players go to the big Spanish clubs, they rarely stay forever.

Michael Owen is a case in point. Brazilian Ronaldo is another. Mesut Ozil, David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all left, too.

The list goes on and I think you get the point – there does seem to be a shelf-life for players at the top Spanish clubs, especially if they’re not Spanish.

Now of course, for every two players that do leave for pastures new, there’s probably one that doesn’t – Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, for example.

But the question remains: is Gareth Bale one of those players who’ll retire at Madrid, or will he fancy testing himself elsewhere?

It’s an interesting one.

Bale has won the Champions League three times since arriving from Tottenham in 2013, so it’s fair to say that he has experienced the true upper echelons of European football.

If he left Madrid now, then he couldn’t be unhappy with his time there – it’s been highly successful, and he’s been an integral part of that success.

So could it be time to move on soon?

Bale is 28, and has probably got another four years at the top.

In other words, he’s probably got one more big contract in him.

So will that be at Real Madrid, or will he spread his wings?

I think one thing that’s clear is that he won’t return to Tottenham; at least not in the near future.

The fact of the matter is that Bale earns around three times as much as Spurs’ highest earners in Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris, and Daniel Levy simply wouldn’t countenance that sort of spend on wages.

Which leaves Man United and Chelsea. Both of which could be goers.

United have shown that they’ll spend whatever it takes to get the player they want (see Paul Pogba) AND pay them whatever they want (see Paul Pogba).

If they want Bale, then they’ll certainly have the means to pay for him, and you just wonder whether Mourinho may fancy the Welshman to add some stardust into what is a very functional team.

On the other side of the coin, you’ve got Chelsea.

The West London club have a similarly healthy appetite for big transfer fees and wages, so the cost would not be a problem.

Whether or not Stamford Bridge materialises as an option very much depends on the future of Eden Hazard.

The Belgian has now won two Premier League titles at Chelsea, but with the Blues seemingly a little off the pace this year, it seems unlikely that Hazard will add to his trophy cabinet.

Could he see that as a sign that it’s time to move on, and if so, could that open the door for Bale to don a blue shirt for the first time in his career?

Right now, it’s all conjecture – but given the current permutations, it’s not a stretch to suggest Bale could very well move on soon, so we’ll all be watching this space with interest.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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