Gareth Bale is a headache for Florentino Pérez, Miguel Ángel Sánchez and Zinedine Zidane. He has been for some time. It's now at the point where the club, according to reports in Madrid and England, could release him at the end of the season even though he has a contract with a 500 million euros release clause that doesn't expire until 2022.
Since Bale announced on May 26, 2018, immediately after the Champions League final, that he wanted to leave the club, his performances have been in decline. The club opened the door to an exit last summer. Zidane came back and tried to move him on, putting pressure on Bale's camp and pushing him towards China -- but he stayed put in the end.
After the door to China closed, Bale stayed in Madrid and his relationship with Zidane appeared to improve. He played earlier in the season but an international break brought more friction. After spending time injured, he forced his fitness to return for Wales and celebrated his country's qualification for the Euros with a banner reading: 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.'
Releasing him will not be easy though because of his huge salary. It would cost president Perez a lot because he earns around 17 million euros annually. But keeping him around until he leaves in 2022 would also come at a huge cost.
Another benefit to him leaving would be he won't take up a non-EU spot in the squad. Once Brexit comes into effect, he will count as one of the club's three foreign players.
His agent Jonathan Barnett has always insisted he wants to stay in Madrid and there seems to be an increasing lack of options in the Premier League. His old team Tottenham thought about him but couldn't pay the fee. On a free, they may be more interested.
Manchester United have also shown an interest in the past and could make an offer.
Other options include the USA and Japan, both options with good golf courses on hand that would allow Bale to enjoy his other big passion.