The rumours linking Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale with exits from the Bernabeu could see the pair finally split if Manchester United are permitted to get their way next year, according to the latest reports.
Metro's George Bellshaw cited Spanish website Fichajes on Saturday, where it's claimed Los Blancos would keep Ronaldo over Bale if it came down to a choice.
The allegedly fractious relationship between the two has been focused upon heavily in the headlines of late, and it just so happens the Red Devils have been linked with each player in recent times.
The report mentions a fee of £71.9 million attached to Bale, a significant step down from the £85 million for which he moved to the Spanish capital in 2013.
Bale's current contract in Madrid isn't set to expire until 2019, while Ronaldo's deal runs out in 2018, but the former's Bernabeu tenure has been blotted by hurdles and recent speculation of dressing room unrest.
The Mirror's Ed Malyon provided details of the Spanish media's rocky relationship with the former Tottenham Hotspur talisman and exactly how he's being "hounded" out of the club.
Ronaldo's former club United would understandably be among the front-runners to re-sign the Portugal captain if he were to leave Madrid, but ex-team-mate Rio Ferdinand this week told Breathe Sport the move is impossible (h/t Eurosport's Kevin Coulson):
The biggest thing about it is that he is competing to win the league and Champions League every year. The Champions League is his holy grail. Does he seem himself doing that at Man Utd immediately? He doesn’t have time to waste. He hasn’t got time for a transitional period. So that ends the conversation.
Bale may not have "time to waste," per se, but at 26 years of age, the Welsh winger is certainly in a better position to afford himself the risk of temporarily dropping his title claims slightly at United.
A great deal of tension between the two is also said to have arisen over how they line up for Real, and former manager Carlo Ancelotti recently hinted at the dilemma of trying to please everyone, per Tom Williams of Agence France-Presse:
Ronaldo is already an exalted figure in Madrid, having just surpassed club legend Raul to become Los Merengues' all-time leading goalscorer.
Meanwhile, Bale is still playing second fiddle to Ronaldo rather than the evenly weighted relationship Real might have once envisioned, according to Spanish daily AS, via ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:
Manager Rafa Benitez has an unenviable burden on his shoulders in that his two stars are of such status and massive cost that any drop from the first team is impossible to imagine and would likely result in a departure.
In order to put the success of the team before any individual, the latest news suggests Bale could be the man sacrificed moving forward, with long-term suitors United only too happy to pick up the scraps.