Carlo Ancelotti will hope his last season is as good as his first, when under his management Bale scored the winner in the Spanish Cup final and starred in the club’s tenth European Cup.
Both player and coach know that’s a lot to ask but with no money being spent by Real Madrid this summer the club are having to wrap up some old toys for Christmas and hope the kids don’t notice – Bale, Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos are being billed as the ‘new’ signings for this season.
Carlo Ancelotti has arrived at Real Madrid banking on Gareth Bale being motivated enough to recapture his goal-scoring form in the famous white shirt
The pair enjoyed a strong relationship during Ancelotti’s last tenure and Bale performed well
All are back from north London loans. There are still possibilities for Ceballos to find another club before the new season starts, because Madrid still need to trim their bloated squad, but Bale’s £15m net annual wages will prevent any such deal for him.
He will be there for Ancelotti to use from day one. Straight away the Italian coach, a master at getting the best out of older players, has indicated he was ready for the challenge by talking up what Bale has to offer.
‘He hasn’t played a lot in the Premier League,’ he said in first press conference. ‘But he has scored a lot of goals. If he’s motivated I’ve got no doubts he can have a great season.’
Ancelotti noted that Bale hit the back of the net on 16 occasions for Tottenham last season
Ancelotti needs him motivated. Bale managed 16 goals at Tottenham in all competitions last season and that was only three less than Eden Hazard, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius and Marco Asensio put together.
Ancelotti has already identified goals as Madrid’s potential problem going into the new campaign.
‘Karim Benzema will have to score 50 goals instead of 30,’ he joked when asked how he intended to solve Real Madrid’s attacking shortcomings in that first press conference back.
Bale could even start up front in a three with Benzema and Hazard if Ancelotti goes ‘full veteran’. He may be without Asensio when the season starts with the Real Madrid forward on Olympic duty so reliance on Bale will begin from the first week of the season.
Discussions need to take place as regards his role but Bale enjoys a far better relationship with Ancelotti than with Zinedine Zidane so those talks should be more comfortable than the brief and cold exchanges with the last manager.
Bale’s comments to Sky in May that he had decided what he would be doing after his loan to Spurs ended have still not completely gone away.
But for now it seems that mysterious statement: ‘It will happen after the Euros. I know what I’m doing but it will just cause chaos if I say anything,’ does not mean retirement, or at least not one that means he waives his final year’s salary at Madrid.
Bale’s previous relationship with Zinedine Zidane was non-existent but things are looking up
And despite stories suggesting Madrid might pay off his final year because post-Brexit he is now one of four ‘foreign’ players and they can only register three, it seems the club will keep him.
They do not have money for new signings, much less 15m for a severance package for Bale. It’s more likely that Vinicius, Rodrygo or Militao will be given Spanish nationality in time.
Bale’s longer-term future is definitely away from Madrid, and most likely away from football.
He put his name to the Welsh Open that began on Thursday. The ‘Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale’ will not be the last time he links up with the event and the links with the sport he has never hidden his passion for are only likely to intensify.
Ancelotti, a man who has also never hidden his ability to switch off from football in order to recharge, will hope there is one more season of service left in Bale’s boots before the only club he cares about is the one that gets him on the green. Madrid need his goals.