Tottenham Hotspur are set to face a fight to keep hold of their key man in January.
Gareth Bale has been linked with an exit from Tottenham repeatedly over the past two months, and now the story has taken a new turn.
Spanish newspaper Marca has claimed Bale has already told Spurs he wants to leave.
Here is the key excerpt of their report: "Gareth Bale – firmly in Real Madrid's crosshairs to reinforce its 2013-14 squad – has informed Tottenham that he wishes to leave the club at the end of the season. He has given his bosses the heads up with a view to leaving on good terms and not spoiling the club's plans.
The Welsh international does not want to take an aggressive stance the way Luka Modric did, when the Croat decided to stop training with Spurs and force the club to negotiate. Bale has proposed a number of reasons why Tottenham should let him go."
The key reasons include 'medal chances, Champions League football, and the years he has already devoted to Spurs so far.'
So how should we take the report?
Marca's article, for something which claims to be so definitive, names or indicates no sources. There are also no quotes to back up the article's claims, which while it does not mean it is therefore not true, certainly gives Spurs fans less reason to worry.
If Bale was wishing to leave, it makes good sense to try and leave on good terms and let the club know in advance, but the past has shown that it is unlikely to make it any easier.
It was clear from day one of the summer transfer window that Luka Modric wanted to quit Tottenham, yet Daniel Levy dug his heels in and the situation turned ugly. He got his way in the end, but there is every chance the Spurs owner would do the same with Bale, ignore his request and put the ball back in Bale's court.
Would Bale have the gall to go on strike to force a move? It wouldn't be the wisest decision, he should just ask teammate Clint Dempsey who came within one hour of being outcast completely by Fulham, sealing a surprise deal to Spurs in the final stages of deadline day. With Bale and his expectant price tag being in the region of £50 million, his options are even more limited.
One key flaw in the report is that Bale's reasoning to want to leave is to gain Champions League football, yet his request to leave is quite premature. It isn't like Spurs have already been ruled out of the running like struggling Newcastle; they currently occupy third position, even if this will fall to fourth if Chelsea win their games in hand.
However the race ends up between Spurs and Arsenal, and perhaps Everton - Tottenham will likely be in with a say until the last day, so Bale may just end up playing Champions League football just yet.
Real Madrid is absolutely an exciting prospect for any player, but Bale is just 23, and has a contract until 2016. If the report is true, then the Welshman certainly doesn't hold the cards, even as their prized asset - Tottenham do.
He'd be best advised to see through to the end of the season, and if they qualify for the Champions League - until the end of next season too, by which time it would be 2014 and he will have two years left on his deal, and be a more mature player, before looking to move on, if at all.
Either way, fans will clearly hope Marca have got this one wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. They last month claimed Rafa Benitez had made Luis Suarez a top target for Chelsea. We can't see that one working out and this one could be hot air too.
What do you think of the claims? Could they be true?
image: © Jan S0L0