Gareth Bale has been handed a new squad number by Real Madrid ahead of the new season.
The Welshman returned to Real after a productive loan season at Spurs, scoring 16 goals in 34 games during the 2020/21 season.
Bale was then cryptic about what the future held for him after Euro 2020, with some reports claiming he could even retire from club football to focus on Wales’ attempts to reach the 2022 World Cup.
But he was selected for Real Madrid’s season opener against Deportivo Alaves in La Liga, and with his iconic number 11 now belonging to Marco Asensio, Bale has been handed the number 18 shirt for the new season.
La Liga regulations state that senior squad members must wear a number from one to 25 – something which has prevented Barcelona from retiring Lionel Messi’s number 10 after leaving for Paris Saint-Germain.
The only other options Bale could have chosen were 13 and 25, and has chosen to begin the new campaign with the number 18 instead.
Bale fell out of favour at Real under Zinedine Zidane, which eventually led to his loan move to Tottenham last season. He remains largely unpopular among Madrid fans (particularly after the ‘Wales, golf, Madrid’ incident), as does club-record signing Eden Hazard, but both will start for Los Blancos in their visit to Alaves.
The club recently said goodbye to stalwarts Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, while David Alaba has been the only player to sign for the club so far this transfer window.
While Madrid continue to pursue Kylian Mbappe, Bale’s presence could help them as they look to wrestle La Liga’s title back from city rivals Atletico. Barcelona, meanwhile, have finally been able to register their new signings ahead of the new season after Gerard Pique agreed to a substantial pay cut.