Bale's final season at Madrid looked doomed before Ancelotti's return

PETE JENSON: Gareth Bale’s final season in Spain looked doomed before Carlo Ancelotti’s shock return to Real Madrid… the Italian now looks set to give the £600,000-a-week star Welshman a last chance as he tries to add goals to his squad

  • Carlo Ancelotti made a shock return to Real Madrid this week as he left Everton
  • The managerial change gives the returning Gareth Bale a lifeline at the club   
  • His £600,000-a-week deal expires next year but he may now have a role to play
  • Ancelotti name-checked Bale numerous times during his presentation this week
  • Bale had fallen out of favour but has a good relationship with the Italian coach 

When a Marca poll this week asked readers if Gareth Bale should be moved on at all costs this summer, or if he had something to offer to the team if he saw out the final year of his contract, 79 per cent ticked the former box and 21 per cent the latter. 

The only opinion that counts right now is the coach’s and Carlo Ancelotti seems to be with the 21 per cent.

Bale staying actually polled more than Marcelo staying and Isco staying, and supporters in the Spanish capital were intrigued to hear just how many times Ancelotti name-checked the Welsh international in his first press conference. 

Carlo Ancelotti says he is prepared 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 at Madrid under the coach he won the Champions League with in 2014?

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

Ancelotti likes to unwind with a meal in one of his favourite restaurants – without the need to start moving the salt and pepper pots to demonstrate how the team should line up in the next game.

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

The Wales international will be at Ancelotti’s first training session this July and has every intention of seeing out his final year at Real Madrid on his £600,000-a-week deal. 

And judging from what he said about him at his presentation on Wednesday, Ancelotti will welcome that news because he needs to find goals from within his squad in the absence of big new signings this summer.

In his book Quiet Leadership published in 2016, there is an Ancelotti-Bale anecdote 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 ground.

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

Ancelotti says that Bale will be given another chance to shine in his final year of his contract 

Ancelotti diffused the situation in typical fashion. ‘Bale had fantastic world-class qualities and all that I was trying to do was help him understand his core strengths so he could fulfil his potential,’ he wrote in his book. 

He told Perez he would speak to him the following morning.

When he did, he assured Bale that while he did not want to change the way the team was lined up in the middle of the campaign, he would address the possibility of playing Bale more centrally the following summer. He was sacked at the end of that season before he could keep to his word.

Bale may well end up more centrally under Ancelotti this year, six years after that first request because what the Real Madrid manager needs now is goals.

‘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 on Wednesday.

The Welshman had fallen out of favour in the Spanish capital under old boss Zinedine Zidane 

Had his press conference not been via video link, the quip might have got a laugh as it was it was greeted with silence.

Ancelotti will know the team’s faltering firepower is the biggest problem he has inherited but he touched on how Bale could help.

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

Bale managed 16 at Tottenham in all competitions, that was only three less than Eden Hazard, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius and Marco Asensio put together last season.

Bale could start up front in a three with Benzema and Hazard but he could also be used instead of Benzema if the French forward – now back playing international football – finds he can no longer play every game. 

Discussions need to take place and Bale enjoys a far better relationship with Ancelotti than with Zinedine Zidane for those talks to bear some fruit.

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

Ancelotti’s greatest night at Real Madrid owes a lot to Bale. It was his goal that put the team in front for the first time against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final. 

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

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

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, much less one that means he waives his final year’s salary at Madrid.

His longer-term future may well be away from football. Ancelotti will understand that and will just want him to postpone that future for another season and try to muster another campaign of goals in Spain.

Bale could be given a last chance saloon at Madrid, when his time at the club looked over 

Ancelotti is hoping to emulate the success gained during his first spell in the Spanish capital

If he matches the 16 he scored last season for Spurs it will give Ancelotti the boost he is going to need if he is to make a success of his second spell in charge at the club.

In the past he has been criticised for over-relying on older players, it seems almost expected of him this time. Bale, 32 this August, would not even count as a ‘veteran’ alongside some of Ancelotti’s most famous Milan foot soldiers.

Barcelona have just brought in 33-year-old Sergio Aguero knowing he will not play all the games but trusting he will bring goals. Bale’s remit this summer will be similar.

‘If he’s motivated,’ Ancelotti said on Wednesday, ‘I’ve got no doubts he can have a great season.’

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