Gareth Bale is one of three players who has already been told by Zinedine Zidane that he is not in his plans for next season.
Sportsmail looks at his options and ask if the four-time Champions League winner has really played his last game for the club.
Gareth Bale has fallen out of favour under Zinedine Zidane and could leave Real Madrid
How did Zidane break the news to Bale that he wasn’t keen on him?
For Bale it was a little like being told what bears do in the woods.
There was a meeting last week at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training ground. Bale knew the meeting was coming and he certainly knew how Zidane felt about him.
The two fell out last season when the player finished the season stronger than any of his team-mates but was still left out of the Champions League final against Liverpool. There has been no desire on the part of the returning coach to mend any bridges.
Has Bale played his last game for the club?
He looks to have played his last game this season. He was left out of the squad for Sunday’s game against Villarreal and he is not hopeful about getting back in for the remaining two games.
Bale appears to have played his last game this season after being left out last weekend
Does he believe he’s played his final match for the club?
Not necessarily, no. He has three years left on his contract. He intends to stay and fight for his place. And that is what he told Zidane in their brief and frosty exchange.
So, we are at an impasse?
Pretty much. Madrid had hoped to sell Bale for £86million (€100m) this summer and they would then have used the money to fund their rebuilding of the side.
But it has dawned on them in recent weeks that that notion is pure fantasy.
Bale, pictured in training with Keylor Navas, is happy at Real Madrid and wants to stay
Because there is no club ready to pay that money for a 29-year-old on £350,000 a week, with a track record of injuries and who, on top of everything else, does not want to leave. There have been zero offers.
Is a loan the solution?
Again this was a thought-bubble that appeared above the Santiago Bernabeu a few weeks ago and has since been burst.
It worked for James Rodriguez. He was sent to Bayern Munich two seasons ago, with the German club agreeing to pay him £5.6m a season net and Real Madrid the same amount.
Bayern were given a buy option of £36m which they look unlikely to exercise this summer when his loan expires. The problem is that Bale’s wages dwarf those of Rodriguez and again there are no takers.
Real Madrid loaned James Rodriguez to Bayern Munich but a deal with Bale is complicated
So what will break the stalemate?
Real Madrid currently have 36 players – including those, who like Rodriguez, are about to come back from loan spells.
They are trying to sell. Only Bale, Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos were spoken to in meetings with Zidane last week but there is a price-tag on almost everyone.
Liverpool have been linked in the Barcelona media with a move from Marco Asensio. Isco can go if there is a taker.
The club want to bring in Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic. Paul Pogba is another target but that’s a midfield problem, so space will need to be made.
Zidane wants to start the new season with six forwards. Hazard, Vinicius, Karim Benzema, Jovic, Asensio and Brahim Diaz. But he’s already admitted he might not get what he wants.
Zidane wants to sign Chelsea star Eden Hazard when the summer transfer window opens
Will Madrid start to play dirty?
Making him train alone? Not sending him on summer tour? Not giving him a squad number? Unlikely. Commercially he remains too important.
So it’s a case of who blinks first loses?
For as long as there is no mega deal arriving out of nowhere, or a change of heart from Zidane, it’s hard to see how things get resolved any other way than someone giving in.
Why does Bale not want to leave?
He is happy in Madrid. That’s why he signed a deal until 2022. He did not want to leave in 2016, 2017 and 2018 when there was interest from Manchester United.
Now in 2019 he still does not want to go, and as there is no interest in signing him – on the terms that would suit him and Madrid – it’s hard to see how he will leave.
Zidane is busy planning for the summer after making a sensational return to the club this year
How will this finish up?
Bale could come back stronger, fitter and hungrier than ever in pre-season. He could strike up an immediate understanding with Hazard and Zidane could end up backing down for the good of the team at the start of the new season.
Or Madrid could get so desperate to move him on that they give him away to get him off the wage bill or loan him but pay all his wages.
Or Zidane could start the season badly, regret ever returning and move on. It’s Real Madrid – anything can happen.
If Madrid buckle and look to ‘give him away’ then who will be the takers and where would he prefer to go if he has to leave?
On the right terms there are some Premier League clubs who would jump at the chance. He remains on his day, when fit, one of the top 10 players in the world.
Chelsea and Spurs would both probably take a four-time Champions League winner if the price was right.
A return to Tottenham could be an option for Bale – but only if Real Madrid lower their demands
Manchester United have been burned in recent years when signing big name players already at the crest of their careers. But they might be tempted on the right terms.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery would doubtless believe in his ability to get the very best out of Bale.
As to where he would want to go, this is a question he has always ducked in the past. Sportsmail asked him directly about a Tottenham return and he choose to keep his counsel – saying that however he answered it would upset someone.
Another move abroad could not be ruled out. Germany would appeal if Bayern were to step forward. But while wages and transfer fee are what they currently are – he’s staying put. His contract until 2022 contract will see to that.