EDEN HAZARD will walk out in front of a huge adoring crowd at the Bernabeu this evening.
He can expect a stunning welcome from Real Madrid fans, with estimates of a 70,000 turnout that would rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s extravagant unveiling ten years ago.
It is the kind of love that Gareth Bale can only dream of right now.
The £86million signing — a world record in 2013 — is standing at a huge crossroads in his career after another week to forget.
One year on from his stunning overhead-kick against Liverpool in the Champions League final in Kiev Bale, who turns 30 next month, faces the biggest choice of his life.
Stick it out in the Spanish capital where he is not wanted?
Or take a huge cut on his £650,000-a-week wages to return to the Premier League, where Manchester United are among his admirers.
Bale cut a dejected figure as he left the Groupama Arena here in Budapest on Tuesday night — after a 1-0 defeat left Wales with a mountain to climb to qualify for Euro 2020.
He said goodbye to the rest of his Wales team-mates as they headed to the airport for a late-night flight back to Cardiff.
Bale himself was led to a private car to begin the journey back to Madrid to rejoin his family at their mansion in the quiet suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcon.
Normally, teaming up with his pals in the national squad is where Bale feels most comfortable — around players he has known since he was a teenager.
HERO TO ZERO
But over the last week he has looked like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
And not just because of his shocking miss an hour into the 1-0 defeat by Hungary that left Wales fourth out of five in Group E.
It has not been a season Bale will look back on with any fondness — and it may have been his last campaign in the white of Real Madrid.
A year ago he was being hailed as the man who could step into the shoes of Ronaldo as the Portuguese goal-machine departed to Juventus.
Bale’s stunning strike in Kiev will go down as one of the greatest goals in the history of the European Cup.
That made it three titles in a row — and four in five years — for Los Blancos. Bale played a key role in all of them.
But since then things have gone downhill rapidly for the former Tottenham man, who has spent six years in Spain.
MANCHESTER MOVE IMMINENT?
He ended the season without a trophy as Barcelona romped to the league title, while they were humbled by Ajax’s youngsters in Europe.
That all led to the return of Zinedine Zidane as coach just nine months after he quit following the 3-1 victory over Liverpool.
Publicly the French World Cup winner has remained coy about Bale’s future but his team selection suggests the writing is on the wall.
He did not feature in the final three league matches of the season and the arrival of Hazard from Chelsea for £88m, rising to £150m, will push him further out of the picture.
Bale is detached from his team-mates. He struggles to hold a conversation with them because his Spanish is still weak even after six years.
Brazilian full-back Marcelo admitted he often communicates with him through gestures.
Bale is furious when details about him emerge from inside the dressing room.
BALE THE GOLFER
This includes the revelation from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois that he did not go to a team dinner as he likes to be in bed by 11pm.
Courtois also revealed Bale’s nickname is “The Golfer” – a not-so-subtle dig at the amount of time he spends out on the course improving his handicap.
It is claimed that, when grilled on his futuire, he told team-mates: “If I have to play golf, I will play golf.”
And when he turned up to a Real Madrid game watching golf on his phone, he was widely mocked on TV.
Bernabeu fans don’t treat him well and most want him to go because they think he does not care any more.
They would have expected him to emerge as a leader. Instead, he’s a wallflower. So this is the dilemma — does he battle for a place, knowing his coach and many fans don’t back him?
Or does he finally throw in the towel and go somewhere he will play regular first-team football?
JOVIC AND MENDY IN
He would like to stay put. His agent Jonathan Barnett insists Bale is committed to changing Zidane’s mind.
But he must surely see that is becoming increasingly unlikely.
Real Madrid, who unveiled Serbia striker Luka Jovic yesterday, have signed left-back Ferland Mendy from Lyon in a deal worth up to £47.1m — which takes their summer spending up to 300m euros.
With three years remaining on his monster contract, Bale will not come cheap but, at this time in his career, he needs to play.
Manchester United are long-term admirers, while many at former club Tottenham would welcome him back with open arms.
Bale offers few clues to where his mind is right now.
During his Wales career, he has regularly spoken to the media — particularly during the run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016.
Most Read In Football
Over the last week, he has refused all interview requests.
Home in Madrid, Bale’s thoughts will now turn to his future.
It is time to make the right decision. For Real Madrid, for the Premier League — and for him.
This post written by John Hutchinson originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.