MADRID • If Spanish media reports are to be believed, Gareth Bale was named in a Real Madrid squad for the last time on Sunday.
But if that was to be the final time that the club-record signing, who moved from Tottenham for £85 million (S$149 million) in 2013, would pull on the famous white jersey, he was not even given the chance to say goodbye.
The Wales forward remained rooted to the bench for the entire game as Real delivered a suitably dreadful end to their miserable season, slumping to a 2-0 home loss to Real Betis.
Not that Bale appeared too concerned at not getting a parting run-out in front of a Santiago Bernabeu crowd that has jeered him all term.
According to the Daily Mail, the 29-year-old was seen joking with teammate Toni Kroos on the bench and at the final whistle, he failed to acknowledge the fans nor Zinedine Zidane as he headed straight down the tunnel.
In his absence as the lightning rod for the Real faithful's ire, the home support turned their anger towards the other players on the field, who were whistled throughout, as the team ended their league campaign third in the standings on 68 points, their lowest tally since 2002, while suffering 12 defeats for the first time since 1999.
Afterwards, Zidane, whose much-heralded return as Real coach in March has yet to pay off, all but hinted at Bale's departure, saying: "No one can change what he has done for the team, but as a coach, I have to live in the present.
TEAM BEFORE PLAYER
I'm sorry, I didn't give Bale minutes today. But I don't know what's going to happen. If I think a player doesn't fit in the team, I have to do what I think works best.
ZINEDINE ZIDANE, on what may be Gareth Bale's last game for Real Madrid.
"I'm sorry, I didn't give Bale minutes today. But I don't know what's going to happen. If I think a player doesn't fit in the team, I have to do what I think works best."
Expressing his relief he could finally draw a line under their annus horribilis, he added: "The best thing for us is that it's over and we can think about next year. Because things will change, for sure.
"There are no excuses. It has been difficult from the start of the season and now at the end with me. That is the reality."
The Frenchman has promised there will be a squad overhaul in the summer and many have also been tipped to leave, including goalkeeper Keylor Navas, defenders Nacho and Sergio Reguilon, and midfielder Isco.
Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon also thinks Bale is on borrowed time, saying "it is a relationship that will come to an end".
The Spaniard told BBC Sport Wales: "Zidane is not keen on him. It seems it was his last game. It is impossible for him to be here because of the coach and the fans. They think he is not committed and that is a problem. The best thing for him is to move. He should take the opportunity if there is one."
And former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp feels Manchester United should offer Bale an end to his Real hell. The Englishman told the Daily Mail that despite the Red Devils being equally mired in mediocrity with their failure to qualify for the Champions League, "he can turn any club around".
He added: "Whoever signs him will be signing a fantastic player. Manchester United could do with Gareth Bale."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS