There’s definitely an element of romanticism in the idea of bringing Gareth Bale to Manchester United.
It’s been a fair few years since a Welshman last glided along the Old Trafford pitch (with any reasonable menace, anyway), and the club pushed hard for his signature in 2013, only to see the former Tottenham Hotspur winger scuttle off to Real Madrid and win a bunch of trophies.
United have tried to prise him away from their clutches since, but to no avail, and with Cristiano Ronaldo finally making good on almost a decade’s worth of threats to leave Los Blancos this summer, Bale has nothing stopping him from becoming Real’s main man.
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Sadly, for Ed Woodward, that means that a deal that the club’s executive vice chairman has pursued persistently since his first summer in charge of United’s transfers dealings will likely elude him again.
Of course, if we know anything about the nature of the transfer market, and Woodward’s insatiable appetite for players with a high level of global stardom, then there remains the possibility of United returning for his services for what must be the 27th time at some point in the future. To be fair to ol’ Ed, it’s not hard to see why.
Have there been many better talents to have emerged from Britain in the last decade than Bale? Aside from being a persistent inspiration and talisman for Wales, his contribution to Real’s trophy haul in the last five years has been gigantic.
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Think back to 2014, with that wonderful run against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final; the image of Bale powering past Marc Bartra and slipping the ball through Jose Manuel Pinto’s legs. That same season, it was he who broke the deadlock in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, even if Ronaldo’s bare chest attempted to steal the show after Real’s fourth attempted to steal the show.
And no discussion of Bale’s contribution to the Spanish club’s success in the last half-decade is complete without a nod to this past May.
That remarkable acrobatic bicycle kick against Liverpool in Kiev is the stuff dreams are made of, and once again, it was Bale who entered a final that was finely poised, and made the difference for his club. Not that United are completely bereft of players capable of producing big moments, but what Woodward and indeed, Mourinho would give for a player capable of making that kind of impact.
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Injuries have hampered him at times, sure, but 88 goals in 189 appearances is not a record to be sniffed at.
Furthermore, with Ronaldo now gone, Bale has the chance to become talisman for both club and country, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the Welshman will only improve without the Portuguese as the side’s vocal point.
Even with new Real coach Julen Lopetegui insisting that Bale will remain at the club, and as another pursuit of the player falls flat, it’s difficult to suggest that it was time wasted.
Players of Bale’s calibre are rare, even with their huge price tags, and this is the kind of talent that you want to see a club like Manchester United aiming for.
And it’s not like the matter is all over and done with after this latest setback, anyway; the image instantly comes to mind of Woodward with a grin on his face, just like Dumb and Dumber’s Lloyd Christmas being told he has a one in a million shot with Mary Swanson, quietly smiling to himself when told of Bale’s immediate plans and saying “so you’re telling me there’s a chance…”.