Gareth Bale's mooted transfer to Manchester United
Will Manchester United finally get their man this summer?
It's strange how football works sometimes. An hour prior to kick-off in Kyiv, emotions ran high, the city was soaked in the Champions League fervor, both sets of fans sang their heart out – with their hearts beating a tad quicker than they usually do, courtesy to the nerves and excitement Europe’s biggest footballing night brings with it.
The team sheets had been announced and the players who had made the cut were preparing themselves with a palpable glee in their eyes, their sole focus was concentrated on the prize at the end of the 90 minutes.
Amidst all of this, Gareth Bale must have bee a forlorn figure in the Real Madrid dressing room, having been named on the bench by Zinedine Zidane, with Isco being preferred in the starting eleven ahead of him in the biggest European game of the season.
However, come the final whistle, it was the mercurial Welshman's scintillating two-goal cameo off the bench which sealed a record breaking 13th European Cup for Madrid - their fourth Champions League crown in five years.
His first effort was probably one of the best goals to have ever been scored in a Champions League final, and his second breakthrough came via one the most embarrassing goalkeeping howlers a European final has ever been witness to.
It's safe to say that the 28-year-old's exploits in Ukraine have put him in an extremely commanding position as far as his future is concerned. Florentino Perez, who is said to be a huge fan of the former Tottenham Hotspur superstar has a worrying dilemma to deal with.
Be it through injuries or the way Zidane sets up this Madrid side, Bale has lost his place in the starting eleven to Isco and has made only 20 appearances for Los Blancos this season.
A player of Bale's quality, will naturally be dissatisfied with the game time he's getting, and he made his displeasure clear with some not-so-subtle comments after what can be considered a parting gift he gave to the Bernabeu faithful in the form of another Champions League trophy.
Speaking after the game, Bale said,
“I need to be playing week in, week out, and that’s not happened this season.
I had an injury five, six weeks into the season but I’ve been fit ever since,” added Bale. I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it.”
Bale's comments must've certainly piqued the attention of a certain Ed Woodward in Manchester, who has been trying to lure the Welsh forward away from Spain for years now. Manchester United gave Madrid a run for their money in their pursuit of Bale when the winger was at Spurs, but the forward ultimately chose the Bernabeu over Old Trafford.
Even though a deal for Bale has been mooted for a few years now, it is the forthcoming summer that brings a real opportunity for United to get their man, given the wingers peripheral role at Madrid.
Do United need Bale? Absolutely. Will he fit into the system Mourinho is trying to deploy at the club? Like a glove.
One of the main concerns of Mourinho's United has been the lack of width and the absence of an out-and-out winger - an explosive presence who can add pace to their attack, get to the byline and whip some mean crosses in for Romelu Lukaku to work with.
Most of United’s attack comes through the middle and the Red Devils encounter difficulties when they come up against teams who like to sit back and hit them on the counter.
In such a situation when there is no way forward through the middle, United lack the width which can stretch oppositions, bring defenders out of position and enable runners from midfield to get into the box.
At the moment, all the wingers at Mourinho's disposal are inverted forwards who look for an opportunity to cut in whilst on the break, are at best mediocre crossers of the ball and create opportunities by knitting passes together with the midfield or by producing a moment of individual brilliance.
The only capable crosser of the ball is a 32-year-old winger (now converted to a left-back), whose crosses at best are average too. Alexis Sanchez's arrival from Arsenal hasn't solved United's winger issue significantly, however the Chilean is expected to have a greater impact at the Theatre of dreams in his second season.
Let's not get it twisted, Bale would take the United attack to another level altogether. His explosive pace, prodigious long-range shooting, winning mentality and the experience of turning up on the biggest occasions and taking responsibility will be absolutely invaluable for United. But his potential signing comes with it's own share of complications.
Firstly, his worrying injury record. Bale has missed 43 games for Madrid in the past two seasons through a combination of calf and ankle injuries. At 28, his alarming injury history of late and his expected wage demands might not make this as feasible a deal as United would want.
Secondly, the Old Trafford outfit probably have other priorities which they will need to address before a potential bid for Bale can even be considered. Mourinho's men are in the market for 2 full backs, 2 central midfielders and potentially a backup for Lukaku.
Even though United are one the richest clubs in football, it is difficult to believe that after addressing all these positions they'll have the money - both in terms of a transfer fee and wages to spend on Bale.
Given Woodward's fantasy of spending the riches on footballing royalty, you cannot rule this one out completely.
In such cases, given the stature of the player involved and the potential commercial windfall that Bale's signing could bring, the top brass at Old Trafford might find the opportunity to bring the Welshman to the club too good to pass up.