Gareth Bale to Manchester United is the rumour that lingers like a bad smell and refuses to go away. No matter that logic dictates that the odds of such a move happening are much the same as Neymar arriving at Old Trafford.
Ever since the club reportedly tried to hijack Bale's move to Real Madrid with a last-minute stratospheric bid in 2013, it has been suggested that the Welshman could return to the Premier League in the red of Manchester United.
The rationale was that the lure of taking up the left-wing berth at Old Trafford and following in the footsteps of fellow Welsh legend (and his personal hero) Ryan Giggs would prove too great for Bale to resist.
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Despite a stellar debut season at the Bernabeu which saw him plunder 22 goals in 44 games, including the second in Madrid's Champions League triumph, the rumours persisted. Louis van Gaal's arrival at United, with his predilection for using pacy wingers in the front-line of a 4-3-3 (as with Overmars and Kanu at Ajax), saw the Bale rumours return with a vengeance.
United did seal at mega-deal with Madrid that summer, but it was team-mate Angel di Maria who made the move to Manchester. All went quiet on the Bale front for a few months. The Argentine's subsequent poor showings in the red shirt, and Bale's perceived failings at Madrid, kick-started a fresh round of speculation, when the January transfer-window opened. Apparently this time United were willing to offer €117 million to prise the mercurial Welshman away from the Bernabeu.
For once there seemed to be some credence to the rumour. Fans of Los Blancos had begun to turn on Bale, accusing him of being too selfish, and refusing to pass to Ronaldo enough. At that stage of the season he had 11 goals for the club, which was insufficient for the fans whom expected more from the most expensive player of all-time.
As before the rumours came to nought, until an incident where Bale's car was attacked by fans as he left the training-ground. Surely this was a sign that his Galactico dream was over, and that he would be returning home.
The opening of this seasons transfer window brought a slew of reports of yet another world-record bid for Bale's services. But there are two major obstacles to this transfer happening in the near future.
Firstly, Madrid president Florentino Perez has staked his reputation on Bale by making him his most expensive Galactico signing. He signed Bale with the view of eventually replacing Cristiano Ronaldo (who turns 32 at the end of this season). Should the Bale project fail, it reflects badly on him.
Secondly, the player himself has repeatedly stated his desire to remain at the club that he dreamed of playing for as a kid. Fans can be fickle and Bale has confidence in his ability to turn things around at Madrid. So United may dream, but Bale will remain at Madrid. For the moment, at least.
Will Manchester United sign Gareth Bale? Let us know below!