Football: Unsettled Bale has United on red alert

Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal against Rayo Vallecano. Photo / AP
Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal against Rayo Vallecano. Photo / AP

The mood in Madrid and the noise from Zinedine Zidane is that Gareth Bale is going nowhere. But the mood in Manchester is very different.

With Manchester United needing a box-office star, the suggestion that Bale is unsettled at Real has the Old Trafford hierarchy on red alert.

If Bale is ready to leave, they would take him now. More likely the move would come in the summer, but with less than a week of the transfer window gone, Ed Woodward has plenty of time until the end of the month to make something happen.

As Rafa Benitez departed with a £7million ($NZ15.4m) pay-off, new Madrid coach Zidane admitted yesterday that Bale is unhappy over the Spaniard's sacking, but vowed to make the former Spurs star feel wanted at the Bernabeu.

'Gareth was disappointed with the sacking of Rafa because he was an important coach for him, but I will treat him the same way Rafa did,' said Zidane.

'He is a key player for the squad. He's phenomenal and we're going to give him all the care and support he needs.'

That offer will be appreciated by Bale and his camp, but they would rather have the platform to shine. That isn't going to happen while Cristiano Ronaldo is around - but it would happen at Manchester United, who have long admired the talents of the 26-year-old.

United know this is their best chance of signing Bale, having twice seen him slip through their fingers.

Sir Alex Ferguson bid for Bale, then a teenage left back, in January 2007 but it was rejected by his club Southampton shortly before he moved to Tottenham.

'We were disappointed in Southampton at the time because we were first there, but they never came back to us,' Ferguson revealed recently. 'It was not the boy who turned us down, it was Southampton - then a few weeks later he signed for Tottenham Hotspur.

'He was a left back when we tried to sign him. It wasn't until Harry Redknapp went to Tottenham that he converted him into a wide left player.'

A second attempt was made to sign Bale when David Moyes succeeded Ferguson in the summer of 2013, but the player's heart was set on Madrid and United's fractious relationship with Spurs chief Daniel Levy was seen as too great an obstacle.

Now there is a growing belief within Old Trafford that it will be third time lucky.

Bale was given assurances from Real president Florentino Perez last summer, when it is said that he stepped in to encourage the Welshman after he began to have misgivings about life in Spain. His relationship with Ronaldo has been challenging, despite helping Madrid lift their 10th European Cup.

Bale scored Real's second goal in a 4-1 win over neighbours Atletico in the Champions League final in Lisbon, and is comfortable that his time in Spain will be viewed as a success if he returns to England with three years left on a six-year contract. However, it would be understandable if he is reluctant to leave this month with Real through to the knockout stages again and four points behind Atletico in the title race - even more so after United's season began to unravel in recent weeks.

Bale is also wary of causing any disruption in the build-up to Euro 2016 after helping Wales qualify for their first major championship since 1958.

Zidane's appointment has drastically changed the mood in Madrid. The dark clouds literally passed on Tuesday morning when 6,000 supporters made the most of the January sunshine and packed into the Valdebebas training ground for an open training session.

Bale was the only absentee, nursing some muscle fatigue after his part in Sunday's gruelling 2-2 draw with Valencia when a second-half header from him so nearly saved Benitez from the sack.

Asked if he felt his glorious past as a player at Madrid would give him more authority than Benitez enjoyed, Zidane said: 'The role of the coach here is not going to change just because of who I am. I have to win games. Only winning games will do. We can win two trophies this season and we will try to do that.'

He shied away from the comparisons with Pep Guardiola, who went from playing legend to coach at Barcelona.

Zidane said: 'I never compared myself to anyone as a player and I don't intend to do that as a coach.'

-Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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