LONDON • The turmoil that has enveloped Manchester United and undermined Louis van Gaal's reign at Old Trafford this season has seemingly done significant damage to the club's hopes of persuading Gareth Bale to return to the Premier League this summer.
The 26-year-old was receptive to a move when United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward offered Real Madrid £100 million (S$203 million) for his services in August. That was turned down by Real president Florentino Perez, with the Spanish club believing United will return with an improved bid after this season.
Bale, however, is believed to be significantly less tempted by United than he was in August. The winger's concerns centre not only on the uncertainty over the manager's position and the possible absence of Champions League football, but also the ponderous style of play employed by van Gaal in his 18 months at the club.
Still, there are several elements to life in Spain that continue to baffle Bale, although it would be incorrect to describe the Welshman as unhappy in Madrid.
Real defender Dani Carvajal apart, Bale does not socialise with his team-mates, preferring golf to their glitzy parties.
He has made a habit of appearing at the team's dinners, but tends to leave them early. Only Toni Kroos, who does not go at all, finds them less appealing.
Bale also stands outside the powerful, highly politicised cliques - led by Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo - within the Real dressing room. Although his relationship with Ronaldo is cordial, the two have often found themselves at odds over where they should be deployed on the pitch.
Bale worries that he will not receive the ball from Ronaldo and two of the Portuguese star's closest confidantes, James Rodriguez and Marcelo, if he plays on the right wing. Ronaldo has complained on a number of occasions this term that, when he plays centrally, Bale tends to occupy the space that he sees as his own.
Given that Rafael Benitez - with whom Bale enjoyed a good relationship - has been sacked, coupled with the impending birth of the Welshman's second child, United should feel their chances of getting the deal over the line this year have increased.
So strong are Bale's doubts over the club's direction, however, that Woodward finds himself in an even weaker negotiating position.
THE TIMES, LONDON