Over the years, Gareth Bale has made a habit of returning from injury to remind everyone what they had been missing.
Take the 2017 Club World Cup semi-final, for instance, when the Welshman came off the bench after recovering from a calf injury, scoring within seconds to send Real Madrid through to the final.
He repeated the trick earlier this season, netting three minutes after coming off the bench in a game away to Espanyol.
This time, though, there has been no emphatic return from injury for Bale.
The winger is picking up splinters on the Real Madrid bench, watching on as Vinicius Junior takes his place as the next Galactico winger.
Questions over Bale’s future at Real Madrid have been a gossip column staple for years, but this time the end might really be in sight for the Welshman in the Spanish capital.
He has so far failed to step into the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo and is now a peripheral figure in Santiago Solari’s side.
So where could Bale go?
Here are three *realistic* potential destinations for the winger… sorry Spurs fans.
Any move for Bale to Stamford Bridge would hinge on the future of Eden Hazard.
The Belgian isn’t doing a very good job of hiding his burning desire to become a Real Madrid player, with the saga concerning his Chelsea future expected to come to a point this summer. His remarks this week have only added fuel to the fire.
Chelsea don’t possess the financial clout of other elite European clubs and so they would likely need a clear run at Bale to secure his services, but Hazard could prove to be a useful makeweight (or vice versa) in any potential deal. Whether Maurizio Sarri would want the Welshman, though, is another matter.
The Italian has a clear idea of what he wants and Bale might not fit that.
The defining night of Bale’s career so far came at the San Siro against Inter Milan.
Now, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could one day turn out for the Serie A giants. This is a club, under new ownership, desperate to make a big move.
They targeted Luka Modric in the summer and came close to pulling off a deal. Modric now seems likely to sign a new contract at Real Madrid and so Inter could turn their focus to another target at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Ivan Perisic handed in a transfer request in the last transfer window, with the Croatian desperate to make a move to the Premier League. Should that materialise in the summer, Inter would need a new winger and Bale would certainly fit the bill.
Bale has already blazed a trail for British players looking to move abroad and a switch to Italy would be a continuation of this.
Not since Wesley Sneijder was around has one club been so consistently linked time and time again with one player.
Manchester United’s interest in Bale isn’t in any doubt. It’s believed that Ed Woodward sees the Welshman as his ideal signing, making a play for the Real Madrid winger more than once over the past few years.
Rather ironically, now that Bale might finally be available, Man Utd are in a good place in terms of wide options.
It’s true that Bale could fill a hole on the right side, but that’s where Jesse Lingard tends to play and the England international has shown himself to be crucial to the way United play under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
At one point, Bale to Man Utd seemed inevitable, but the latter might now be in the position of power.