Real Madrid suffered a humiliating 7-3 defeat by crosstown rival Atletico Madrid in a pre-season game Friday, with speculation still swirling over Gareth Bale’s future.
Diego Costa scored three times before the break as Atletico hit five in the opening 45 minutes. Costa added his fourth after the break before receiving a red card for clashing with Real’s Dani Carvajal, who was also dismissed in a fiery affair between the two clubs.
Trailing 7-1 with 20 minutes to go, Real scored twice late in the game, easing some of the pain on a chastening evening for head coach Zinedine Zidane.
On another disappointing night in the US for Real, further speculation emerged surrounding the fate of Bale, with UK media reporting he is close to joining Chinese club Jiangsu Suning on a contract worth over £1 million-a-week ($1.23 million).
Bale’s future at Real looked over last week when he was left out of last Sunday’s pre-season friendly against Bayern Munich. Zidane told reporters: “He wasn’t included in the squad because the club is working on his departure and that’s why he didn’t play.”
He went on, “We’ll have to see what happens in the coming days. We’ll have to see if it goes through tomorrow. If it does, then all the better. Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that it happens soon. The club is dealing with the club that he’ll move to.”
Rumors about a potential trade for Bale, who did feature in the friendly clash against Arsenal last week and made a substitute appearance against Atletico, have long been in the air.
A member of the Welsh national team, Bale, who joined Real in 2013 with what was then a world record contract of £85 million ($105 million), struggled with injuries last season and was booed by the club’s fans.
Bale, like the team, endured a difficult time with Real finishing 19 points behind archrival and champion Barcelona in third place. It was also knocked out of the Champions League by Ajax in the last 16.
The 30-year-old, who still has three years left on his current deal, has won four Champions Leagues, one Spanish title, one Spanish Cup, three Super Cups and three Club World Cups.
While Bale may be part of Real’s past, the future appears to be fraught with challenges for Zidane.
New signings Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic started against Atletico but had little answer to coach Diego Simeone’s side.
Four goals from Costa, plus strikes from Joao Felix, Angel Correa and Vitolo sealed a satisfying victory for Atletico as it ran riot. Red cards for Costa and Carvajal only added to the already-raucous affair.
“There was no response from us to change something,” Zidane told reporters after the match, which was played in New Jersey, a stone’s throw from New York City. “The first part was difficult. We never entered the game. We have lacked everything, especially intensity.
“You don’t have to spin it over. It’s a pre-season game. They’ve been better at everything. There is nothing more to talk about. We are preparing a season and being calm.”
Atletico coach Simeone said he knew where Real would be vulnerable and sent his players out to take full advantage.
“Having seen Madrid, we looked for where we could harm them,” Simeone told reporters. “We tried to find good places at the exit of the ball and we were very precise. That, in football, it is important.”