Transfer Talk: Bale to choose home comforts or the American dream
Gareth Bale has the footballing world waiting to see what his next step will be following his nine-year stay at Real Madrid.
The Welsh wizard moved to the Spanish capital from Tottenham for a then-world record fee of £85million and delivered five Champions League titles.
Bale led his country into the World Cup for the first time in 64 years with another talismanic performance in the play-off against Ukraine — putting any rumours of a potential retirement to bed.
With Championship outfit Cardiff and multiple MLS clubs heavily linked with a free transfer, we take a look at the pros and cons of a move to either league.
Bale, 32, has reportedly held talks over a sensational move to hometown club Cardiff.
The move would make great sense for family reasons with the winger and his wife both born and bred in the area.
If he is able to replicate the form that he produced when he returned to Spurs on loan for the 2020-21 season, he will undoubtedly have Cardiff fans dreaming of promotion after a difficult season.
However former Bluebird Jay Bothroyd, who has played in both the Premier League and Championship, spoke about the difficulties Bale may face.
He told talkSPORT: "If Bale went to Tottenham for example, who have got world-class players, it would be a lot easier in that kind of environment than in the Championship when you’re playing Saturday and Wednesday.
"It is really difficult to play in the Championship, especially at the back end of your career."
Jack Wilshere, who also played in both divisions, added: "I’d actually say in my experience the pace of the game is faster in the Championship.
"Most of my time in the Premier League I played for a club that had the ball all the time and then in the Championship it was completely different.
"We were sat there thinking we’d go up [to the Premier League] and then the next minute we weren’t. Players know that anything can happen at any time."
The Welshman’s injury struggles continued last season after he was sidelined for a number of matches through injury at Spurs and accused of lacking match fitness by former boss Jose Mourinho.
England's second tier has a brutal schedule but Cardiff would surely be happy to manage Bale's minutes, especially with the World Cup around the corner.
A host of MLS clubs are interested in luring Bale to the United States.
Two American outfits have reportedly already submitted offers, which will leave Cardiff feeling anxious due to their spending power.
MLS is certainly less intense than the Championship and given Bale’s injury record, a move there may well be more suited to him.
However this will mean that his wife and four children would need to relocate to unfamiliar settings — and this may well play a big role in his decision.
Travelling from the USA to play for Wales will mean less recovery time, while the league is not as competitive, meaning his performance levels could dip.
Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett confirmed on Thursday morning that a decision on his future will be made in the next few days.
Madrid’s former No18 was happy to fulfil his lucrative contract at Real, which saw him earn an astronomical £600,000-a-week, while not playing much football in the last couple of seasons for Los Blancos.
With not many years left in the tank, Bale may well opt for another huge payday and head to MLS, which also explains the recent Newcastle links as one of his potential destinations.
The Championship is far from forgiving in intensity and his troubles with fitness give Bothroyd and Wilshere’s comments some real substance.
That being said, a return to Wales ahead of the Dragons' historic campaign in Qatar would be a fairytale ending for their most storied player.