By Joe Harker
Welsh winger Gareth Bale is apparently heading towards the exit door with Real Madrid, confirming what many had suspected for a long time.
His place and status within the club long a matter of some debate, Bale has often appeared to be an unfancied option under the current management and he's really too much of an investment to be a squad player.
Signed six years ago as the eventual successor to Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale's time in Spain looks to be coming to an end. That is, of course, if a club for him to go to can be found.
The the words of Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane are anything to go by then Bale could be gone rather quickly, with clubs interested in the Welsh winger.
The BBC reports that Zidane has said Bale is "very close to leaving", even going so far as to say he hoped the player would be gone before long.
Saying a deal to get Bale out of the Santiago Bernabéu would be "best for everyone", the manager insisted trying to force the winger out of the club wasn't a personal vendetta.
Simply put, Real Madrid don't want a player who doesn't get much game time to be eating up a massive chunk of the wage bill when his best days are likely behind him and they still have the chance to push him onto another club.
Bale is 30 and injury prone, not featured in Zidane's plans and on Galactico wages. It doesn't make sense to keep him around so Madrid's attempts to get rid of him are understandable.
The Counter Claim:
Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett called Zidane a "disgrace" for his comments and insisted his client would leave Real Madrid when he wanted to do so and not a moment sooner.
An unnamed club is reportedly in talks to sign Bale with a deal being done as early as today, but the player's agent said they would wait until they believed the move was right. Any transfer out of the Bernabéu would only happen if Bale believed it was the right move for him and not because Zidane was trying to push him out.
A move for Bale is tricky as all the reasons Madrid don't want him any more are reasons why a club would be reluctant to sign him. There are more reliable, cheaper, younger options on the transfer market than Bale for interested clubs to pursue.
His wages are a problem for plenty of clubs. Even if Real Madrid agrees to subsidise him for a time he would still be the highest paid player at most clubs.
Clubs looking at Bale will be wondering three things. Can they afford him? Will he justify his investment? If it all goes wrong will they be able to move him on? The answers aren't encouraging.
Through a mixture of injuries and lack of selection Bale hasn't played as much as a star of his quality and investment ought to. Over the last four seasons he's appeared in 79 La Liga games, just over half of the fixtures, while he hasn't played more than 2,000 minutes of league football in that period.
Even last season where he made 42 appearances for Real Madrid half of those were as a substitute. A player of Bale's quality, reputation and wages isn't a man to be left out of half of your games and only starting half of those in which he appears.
Bale's Real Madrid career began with an £85 million move in the summer of 2013, a world record fee at the time. It has spanned 231 games with the Welshman scoring 102 goals and notching 65 assists.
trophy cabinet is heavy from his time in Spain too, with four Champions Leagues, a La Liga title and a Copa Del Rey. Titles lead to titles and he's also picked up four FIFA Club World Cups, three UEFA Supercups and a Supercopa de España.