Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale should be looking to pump oxygen into his asphyxiating career by returning to the Premier League, according to the $180 million winger’s former Wales teammate Carl Robinson.
The Newcastle Jets coach forged a close bond with Bale during three years playing together with the Dragons, and insists he’s far from the diffident, disinterested figure portrayed by the Spanish media.
Pictured with a rare smile on his face training with Wales this week ahead of UEFA Nations League clashes against Finland and Bulgaria, the 31-year-old’s future is a constant conversation.
Unwanted by Zinedine Zidane, 52-cap Robinson - whom Bale backed for the Wales job before Ryan Giggs was appointed - has a simple solution.
“Imagine signing Gareth Bale? There are very few managers in the world who wouldn’t want him,” Robinson said.
“I think it’s a shame that such a high-level player isn’t playing.
“You train Monday to Friday to play at the weekend and people want to see him play and perform and do the special things he’s capable of.
“He deserves the plaudits but at the moment he’s getting criticism because he’s not playing.
“I’d like to see him back in the Premier League. I still think it’s the best league in the world because there are five or six exceptional teams - Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
"And that’s not including rising teams like Wolves.
“He knows the competition and it’s made for his physical attributes - hopefully fans will get to see him back there, having won everything at Madrid, and still a terrific player.”
Robinson, 43, isn’t buying the argument that Bale, whose played just 100 minutes in Los Blancos’ last 12 games, is more focused on his golf swing than winning back Zidane’s belief.
Bale joined Madrid from Tottenham in 2013 for a then-world record fee and has since scored 105 goals, along with 68 assists for the club.
“It’s a tricky situation because there is discontent at Real Madrid and Gareth has two years left on his contract,” he added.
“I’m sure both parties want a resolution but you have to find a happy medium where the player walks away happy - if not there’s always the question of that little bit of payback somewhere along the line.
“People will throw stones at Gareth and say he’s content to sit there and not be playing but that’s not true.
“People don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and it’s important you hear both sides of the story.
“Obviously I know Gareth very well and I know for a fact he desperately wants to be playing.”
With four UEFA Champions League winners medals and two La Ligas in his seven years at the Bernabeu, Bale has nothing left to prove.
But he does need to be playing, says Robinson, to ensure he’s in prime condition for his beloved Wales.
“That’s a big factor because he needs to be in the right shape for international football, and I know how much Wales means to him,” Robinson said.
“Ryan Giggs has done an excellent job to qualify for next year’s (delayed) European Championships, and Gareth needs to be playing at the top level.
“I remember playing with him - and when he didn’t get the ball he wasn’t happy.
“That’s what top players do, they demand possession because they know they can make something happen.
“With his background he has probably won more trophies than 100 top level players put together and, statistically, his record has been exceptional.
“To get the criticism he does I can’t believe it but it shows you what football is about sometimes
“Should he be on the golf course on a Friday? Well I don’t agree with that, but if he’s been told that he’s not playing at the weekend then, by the way, he’s probably allowed to.
“I hope it all comes to a happy ending because he’s been really successful for Madrid, just like Ronaldo was before he moved to Juventus.”
Bale almost moved to the Chinese Super League before Madrid shut down the deal at the last minute, and his relationship with Zidane has continued to curdle.
“Managers do things for certain reasons, whether it’s right or wrong. Maybe they want to move Gareth, I don’t know, but that might be a reason,” Robinson said.
“Maybe they want to promote younger players and that’s fine as well. I’m sure that information will be relayed to him.”