Gareth Bale’s final season at Real Madrid looked doomed… before Carlo Ancelotti’s shock returned


When a Brand a poll this week asking readers if Gareth Bale should be moved at all costs this summer, or if he has anything to offer the team when he sees the final year of his contract, 79 percent ticked the first box and 21 percent the latter.

The only opinion that counts at the moment is that of the coach and Carlo Ancelotti seems to belong to the 21 percent.

Bale who stayed was actually more polled than Marcelo who stayed and Isco who stayed, and supporters in the Spanish capital were intrigued to hear how often Ancelotti was name-checking the Welsh international during his first press conference.

Carlo Ancelotti says he is ready to give Gareth Bale a lifeline at Real Madrid this summer

Bale played his best football under Ancelotti during his debut season with Madrid in 2013-14

Could he really have one last hurrah in Madrid under the coach he won the Champions League with in 2014?

Bale and Ancelotti have a lot in common as football men. Both have a drawer full of European Cup medals and a love for the sport, but both have passions outside of football and both know how to disconnect.

Ancelotti loves to relax over a meal at one of his favorite restaurants – without having to move the salt and pepper pots to show the team how to line up in the next match.

And Bale can forget about football for as long as it takes to play 18 holes at the nearest golf course (usually about four hours).

The Wales international will attend Ancelotti’s first training session in July and is determined to finish his final year at Real Madrid on a £600,000-per-week contract.

And judging by what he said about him during his presentation on Wednesday, Ancelotti will welcome that news as he needs to find goals within his team as there are no major new signings this summer.

In his book Quiet leadership published in 2016, there is an anecdote about Ancelotti-Bale, but while it described a disagreement over Bale’s position on the pitch, it also spoke well of the pair’s understanding on the training pitch.

Ancelotti recalled being summoned to speak with Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid, after Bale’s agent expressed the player’s preference for playing more centrally.

Ancelotti says Bale will get another chance to shine in his final year of his contract

Ancelotti spread the situation in a typical way. “Bale had fantastic world class qualities and all I tried to do was help him understand his core strengths so he could live up to his potential,” he wrote in his book.

He told Perez that he would see him the next morning.

When he did, he assured Bale that while he didn’t want to change the way the team was set up in the middle of the campaign, he would discuss the possibility of playing Bale more centrally next summer. He was fired at the end of that season before he could keep his word.

It is quite possible that this year, six years after that initial request, Bale will find himself more central to Ancelotti, as what the Real Madrid manager needs now are goals.

“Karim Benzema will have to score 50 goals instead of 30,” he joked on Wednesday when asked how he wanted to overcome Real Madrid’s attacking shortcomings.

The Welshman had fallen out of favor in the Spanish capital under former boss Zinedine Zidane

If his press conference hadn’t been via video link, the joke might have laughed, as he was greeted with silence.

Ancelotti knows the team’s faltering firepower is the biggest problem he’s inherited, but he shared how Bale could help.

“He hasn’t played much in the Premier League,” he said. “But he has scored a lot of goals.”

Bale came to 16 at Tottenham in all competitions, just three less than Eden Hazard, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius and Marco Asensio combined last season.

Bale could start up front in a three with Benzema and Hazard, but he could also be used in place of Benzema if the French forward – now playing international football again – finds himself unable to play every match.

Talks need to take place and Bale has a much better relationship with Ancelotti than Zinedine Zidane for those talks to bear fruit.

Bale could reunite his old partnership with leading number nine Karim Benzema on the attack

Bale could reunite his old partnership with leading number nine Karim Benzema on the attack

Ancelotti’s best night at Real Madrid owes a lot to Bale. It was his goal that first gave the team the lead against Atlético Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.

Probably only Sergio Ramos, who got the late equalizer that brought the game to extra time, did more to save his coach – Ancelotti would have been fired had Madrid not won the final.

After his press conference on Wednesday, Ancelotti’s plan was to fly to Sardinia on June 10 to celebrate his upcoming 62nd birthday. He is expected to bring in the players for the first time on July 5.

Bale’s comments to Sky in May that he decided what he would do after his loan to Spurs ended has still not completely gone away.

But for now it seems that mysterious statement: ‘It will happen after the European Championship. I know what I’m doing, but it will only cause chaos if I say something,” doesn’t mean he’s retiring, let alone waiving his last year’s salary in Madrid.

His longer-term future may not be close to football. Ancelotti will understand that and will just want him to postpone that future for another season and try to rack up another campaign of goals in Spain.

Bale could get one last chance in Madrid when his time at the club was over

Bale could get one last chance in Madrid when his time at the club was over

Ancelotti hopes to match the success he achieved during his first stint in the Spanish capital

Ancelotti hopes to match the success he achieved during his first stint in the Spanish capital

Making the 16 he scored for Spurs last season will give Ancelotti the boost he needs if he is to make a success of his second spell at the club.

In the past he has been criticized for relying too much on older players, this time it seems almost expected of him. Bale, 32 in August, wouldn’t even count as a ‘veteran’ alongside some of Ancelotti’s most famous Milanese foot soldiers.

Barcelona have just brought in 33-year-old Sergio Aguero, knowing he won’t play all games, but confident he will score goals. Bale’s assignment this summer will be similar.

“If he’s motivated,” Ancelotti said on Wednesday, “I have no doubt he can have a great season.”