Zinedine Zidane was decidedly coy when asked about the future of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
Bale was touted as a potential target by Jose Mourinho last summer but the Real boss was adamant that the Welshman was part of his plans at the Bernabeu.
But the winger, who was left out against Bayern Munich, looks increasingly likely to find a new club over the transfer window following another season marred by injury issues and a lack of playing time.
Speaking after the game, Zidane implied that Bale was some way down the pecking order at Madrid.
“I have to make choices and I’ve got some very good players in the squad,” he said. “There are some players who are performing well at the moment.”
“There are still more games to come and I’ll be relying on him. It’s not true that I don’t play him.”
Put simply, Zidane does not see Bale as a starter. He does not rely on him to play in the Champions League, where Madrid seem most like themselves, steering inexorably and arrogantly to victory wherever they go.
That notion alone should provide reason for Bale to leave. He is simply too good to be sitting on the bench every week, taking up the role of sideshow.
But that chance is unlikely to come at United. Mourinho, you sense, is starting to unearth a certain attacking dynamic he may want to stick with – namely Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez, and perhaps Juan Mata as well, linking up between the lines in search for that killer ball through to Romelu Lukaku.
United are, you sense, only just truly adjusting to Sanchez’s presence on the pitch; bringing in another attacking player would only set them back further.