Just a few weeks ago, Gareth Bale looked certain to depart Real Madrid in the summer transfer window, with Zinedine Zidane explicitly making it clear that the Welshman did not feature in his future plans at the club.
The 30-year-old spent the first few weeks of the window in transfer limbo, as no club made any major enquiry about his services. But last week the impasse was broken as reports emerged that Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning were willing to sign the former Tottenham Hotspur man in a deal which would see him net a whopping £1 million per week, making him the second highest paid player in the world.
Over the weekend, Bale flew over to finalize details of the transfer. However, fans got a rude shock when it emerged that the deal had been called off, with Florentino Perez seemingly pulling the plug at the last second.
Jiangsu Suning have gone on to sign Croatia's Ivan Santini, filling the CSL quota for foreign players. This effectively means that barring a shock bid from another club in the next one month, Bale will in all likelihood remain a Real Madrid player next season.
The fact that his coach wanted him out coupled with reports that he has fallen out with some of his teammates meant that Bale's departure was seen as nothing but a mere formality. Now, however, everything seems to have turned upside down.
That said, there are some plausible reasons as to why Real Madrid pulled the plug on the deal. Here, we look at three factors because of which Bale's proposed move to China fell through at the last minute.
#1 Marco Asensio's injury
For most of his managerial career Zidane has operated with a 4-3-3 sytem, with two wide men flanking a central striker. Heading into next season, Eden Hazard is guaranteed a spot on the left of attack, while Vinicius Jr would likely complement him on the other flank.
Real Madrid definitely have no shortage of backup options on the wings, with Marco Asensio being the most prominent.
The 22-year-old would have been looking to battle it out for a starting spot with Vnicius Jr. And his status as a Zidane favorite meant that he would have been guaranteed to have minutes on the field.
However, an unfortunate injury in the second half of Real Madrid's pre-season fixture against Arsenal put paid to those plans. Asensio pulled up with a torn ACL which has all but ruled him out of next season.
This is an unfortunate scenario for Real Madrid on many counts. Beyond the obvious setback of losing a key member of the first team, it also means that they find themselves painfully short of options out wide.
Most of the other options currently at the club are either young and untested, like Rodrygo and Brahim Diaz, or have failed to step up to the plate - for example Lucas Vazquez and Mariano.
This has thrust Bale into more importance, as he is arguably the only proven winger at the club other than Hazard.
Asensio's injury has robbed Real Madrid of an important player, and given the club's shortage of options out wide, it would have been foolhardy to let Bale leave the Bernabeu.