If Gareth Bale decides to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer, there are arguably just four clubs across Europe in the running to sign him. Ironically, one of them, Bayern Munich, could do Spurs a small favour in their efforts to keep him at the club.
If the guarantee of Champions League football is assuredly the best chance Spurs have of keeping Bale, then Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press conference on Monday may have evoked an uneasy sense of déjà vu for fans of the North London club.
After the weekend’s defeat to Blackburn Rovers—the first time in his reign Arsenal lost to lower-league opposition in the FA Cup—the Champions League is the last trophy the club can win this season.
A year ago, Chelsea were in a similar state of discord. André Villas-Boas was under severe pressure before his side went to Italy to face Napoli in the last 16. A 3-1 defeat led to his sacking and Chelsea’s season looked over. Incredibly, though, a run that included over 100 shots conceded to the opposition in the final three games ended in European glory and denied Spurs Champions League qualification.
At the moment it looks like a battle between the two North London sides for fourth place in the league this season.
And it would be a sequel to trump the first installment for horror were Arsenal to win the trophy and Spurs finish fourth in the league.
It’s simply unthinkable at the moment that Arsenal’s first trophy in eight years will be the European Cup. Bayern have been absurdly good in the league this season. They’ve scored 57 goals in 22 games and conceded just seven; they hold a 15-point lead over the defending champions Borussia Dortmund.
But, then again, it was unthinkable that Chelsea would go to the Nou Camp, have a player sent off after 37 minutes and come from two goals down to knock out Barcelona. It was equally as implausible that they would recover from 3-1 down in the final penalty shootout to deny Bayern.
If the German side overcome Arsenal it will eliminate the prospect of Spurs losing out on Champions League football in the same fashion two years running.
However, even if they then hold off the Gunners to finish fourth, there is no outright guarantee Bale will stay.
Here, we take a look at where he is likely to end up and who will make the best use of him.