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Jose Mourinho mind games over Gareth Bale?

Jose Mourinho held his press conference before the UEFA Super Cup match against Real Madrid on Tuesday evening and one of the subjects he touched upon was that of Gareth Bale, and his latest comments seem to have gotten everyone into a bit of a frenzy. But, does he mean it? Or is this another one of his infamous mind games?

So, what exactly did he say? While he didn’t wave around an emblazoned sign with the words “We are coming to get you Gareth Bale!”. He has been perhaps more forthcoming than he usually is with targets. When asked about trying to buy Bale, he said:

“Well if he’s playing tomorrow, no I wouldn’t think of that. It’s because he’s in the coach’s plans and the club’s plans, because he also has that motivation to continue at Real Madrid. So I haven’t even thought about the possibility. If he is not in the club’s plans, that with the arrival of another player would mean he was on his way out, I will try to be waiting for him on the other side and fight with other coaches that would want him on their team. But if he plays tomorrow, that is the best confirmation that he is wanted by the team.”

As you can see it is definitely more forthcoming than usual, but therein lies the rub. Mourinho usually plays his cards to his chest. He didn’t speak about Paul Pogba, he didn’t speak about Zlatan  Ibrahimovic nor Victor Lindelöf or anyone else for that matter. Mourinho is not one for idle chatter, every word has a meaning and every sentiment an underlying message, so what is going on here.

First, what are the chances that he genuinely wants to tie a deal up for Bale before the end of this transfer widow? Bale to United has been a transfer rumour since before Sir Alex Ferguson retired, it seems that the link is between Bale and the club, rather than Bale and Mourinho, and the fact it pre-dates Mourinho’s time makes it seem very dubious.

The second thing is Bale’s release clause. Paris Saint-Germain just smashed the transfer record for Neymar and Manchester United would have to more than double that to meet the Welshman’s £500 million release clause. Bale is one of Florentino Perez’s ‘favourites’ and would definitely demand the clause be met, as he still thinks Bale will be his marquee player after Ronaldo hangs up his boots. United have already made a serious outlay on Romelu Lukaku, Pogba and Nemanja Matic and so to spend another half billion on a fourth player would be extreme, even by United’s new standards.

Also, Mourinho is not looking for a marquee winger. Yes, he wants to make sure he gets an attacking player for the right side of the pitch, a specialist to improve upon the likes of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford but, for £500 million, you would want to be buying a player you were going to build your team around and, at this late stage, there’s no way Mourinho would allow such a vital cog to be missing from his plan. Nobody spends that kind of money on ‘just’ a first-teamer.

So why the words? Could it be a ploy to throw of Zinedine Zidane ahead of Tuesday’s match, and maybe planting the seed for a cheaper future move? I think so, and it could be a little bit of a masterstroke from the man himself.

On the one hand, everyone knows Zidane has a choice to make between Bale and Marco Asensio and that Madrid seemed to be more balanced when Ronaldo and Bale aren’t sharing the pitch, so maybe Bale wasn’t even in his plans anyway. But, if he doesn’t start tomorrow the seeds of doubt may start springing in Bale’s mind that maybe Zidane is proving Mourinho’s point for him by not starting Bale. The flip side of that is, if Zidane wasn’t planning on starting Bale, does he know change that plan so as not to send the wrong message to his player? I doubt Zidane would be that weak-minded but if Bale starts tomorrow, some may think that.

Long term, Mourinho could be planning for a future with Bale and trying to lay the groundwork now. He has expressed an interest and he has told Bale that basically if he doesn’t feel loved at Real Madrid, he has a home at United. This extends far beyond tomorrow’s match and, as we saw last season he wasn’t always a first choice in Zidane’s starting eleven. Should he find his playing time becoming less than he’d like then maybe he starts to consider a move away, a move to where he will be wanted and played, and loved. Once he starts to consider a move away then Madrid may have an unhappy player on their hands and, we start to see a situation where, although he still won’t be cheap, United will have some leverage to negotiate a better price.

Either way, I doubt that Mourinho is making a move for Gareth Bale in this window and so, whatever the short or long-term goals, this is just once again the master of mind games toying with his opponents.

Written by Marvyn Wilson

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