Gareth Bale returns to pre-season training at Real Madrid on Monday with a meeting with new manager Julen Lopetegui high on the agenda to determine whether he has a future in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era.
Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus last week was seen as a boost to 28-year-old Bale who was regularly left out of Real Madrid’s starting XI last season and expressed his frustration after scoring twice as a substitute in the Champions League final win against Liverpool in May.
But even without the presence of the world footballer of the year, Bale wants a serious discussion with Lopetegui about his role at the Bernabeu before deciding if he wants to stay for a sixth season.
Lopetegui, who abruptly left Spain on the eve of the World Cup after news broke that he was going to Madrid, speaks English and discussions with his £86million Welsh star are expected to be cordial.
But with Manchester United known to be long-time admirers of Bale, he will want some kind of assurances that he’ll be regarded as mainstay of the Real team next season.
Lopetegui can already count upon Karim Benzema, Isco and rising star Marco Asensio in his attack and Real have been strongly linked with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard who prefers to operate on the left-hand side like Bale.
Madrid have dismissed suggestions that they will bid for either of PSG’s star duo Neymar of Kyllian Mbappe this summer but they are believed to be strongly interested in Chelsea and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Bale became the world’s most expensive player when he signed for Real Madrid from Tottenham in 2013 and has justified the fee by winning four Champions League titles, La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
But he admitted his long-term future was unclear after scoring one of the Champions League’s best-ever goals with an overhead kick against Liverpool in Kyiv. He later explained: ‘I was frustrated’.