What next for Gareth Bale?

Bale's performance against Juventus was widely critcised
Bale's performance against Juventus was widely critcised

Gareth Bale’s future is back on the agenda once again after his latest poor showing in Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final defeat against Juventus.

Roy Keane suggested Bale’s presence in the Real Madrid team meant they were “playing with ten men because he gave them absolutely nothing” in his TV pundit role after the game and these stats after the game confirm as much.

Touches on the ball: 32 (fewer than Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas)

Shots on target: 0

Chances created: 0

Successful crosses: 0

The performance has sparked fresh debate over his future at Real Madrid and with Manchester United apparently keen to bring Bale back to the Premier League, we look at what is going wrong for the Welshman in Spain.

1. Confidence

It is evident for all to see that Bale is seriously lacking this important ingredient in his game right now and it is hardly surprising. He has been battered and belittled by the Spanish media in recent months, with his winning goal in last season’s Copa del Rey final and the Champions League final (below) quickly forgotten.

Bale’s self-belief can return as quickly as it has apparently evaporated, but can that happen in the highly demanding environment of Real Madrid?

2. Style of play

Bale has proved himself to be the ultimate exponent of the quick breakaway. Racing past opponents and finishing with style was his trademark move at Tottenham, but that is not what is needed at Real Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid tend to have the ball for the majority of every match they play, with counter-attacking football not on their agenda. Maybe this is one area where Bale’s game is better suited to the fast-paced and competitive Premier League.

3. Feeling loved

Bale has never been fully embraced by the Real Madrid faithful and that lack of love may well have chipped away at his desire to prove himself at one of the world’s biggest clubs.

This is nothing new. Bale suffered horrible dips in form as he was jeered by Spurs fans in his formative days at the club and only when Harry Redknapp arrived as manager and revived his confidence did he emerge as a world star. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho may be the type of character who could relight the fire inside Bale if he was to consider a move to sign the 25-year-old this summer.

4. Would he fit in at Manchester United?

Angel di Maria appeared to be the perfect wide man for Louis van Gaal to build his team around as United splashed out £59.7m to sign the Argentine star from Real Madrid last summer, but that dream has dissolved in double quick time this season.

If Di Maria leaves United this summer (and that looks increasingly likely), Bale may be the natural fit to replace him and deliver the kind of match winning displays that made him too hot to handle in his final season as Tottenham player. Our Sunday World back page last weekend (below) confirmed United want Bale and on the evidence of recent weeks, Real Madrid may soon be willing to sell.

5. Our verdict

When an asset who has cost a club £86m is not producing world beating performances on a weekly basis, the critics will not need a second invitation to pounce and Bale appears to be struggling to cope with his status as a Galacticos.

He may not want to give on his dream of playing for Real Madrid, but a move to Manchester United may well suit all parties if and when negotiations get under way this summer and if Van Gaal could get this brilliant player performing at his best again, he could be the talisman to take the club back to their glory days.