“If he is not in the club's plans and it is true that a player like [Gareth] Bale is at the departure gate, I will try to be there waiting for him at the other side."
Subtlety has never been a strength of Jose Mourinho, with the Manchester United manager more a ‘say it as you see it’ kind of guy.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to find that the Portuguese lit the proverbial transfer fuse when quizzed on his reported interest in a Real Madrid player ahead of a meeting with the Liga champions in the UEFA Super Cup.
He did, of course, also say that: “If he plays, it is the clearest signal that he is staying there.”
To his credit, Zinedine Zidane refused to be drawn into a childish debate, stating: “What's important is the player is feeling well. What’s important for us is not what Mourinho said.”
He then proceeded to name Bale in his starting XI, which was presumably his intention all along and not a reaction to what had gone before.
“Clearly the club wants him and he wants the club – game over even before it started – everybody knows he is going to stay.”
That is, however, far too black and white.
To suggest that one appearance, in what is basically a glorified pre-season friendly, will dictate the future of one of the biggest stars on the planet is scarcely believable – especially in a world where money talks even louder than Mr Mourinho.
Cast the mind back just a few short weeks and Neymar was turning out for Barcelona a matter of days before his record-breaking €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain was pushed through.
Barca did not want to sell, but the player wanted to move and once money was put on the table, the Brazilian was packing his bags for France.
If he really wanted to, Bale could force a similar situation.
His agent has come out and branded rumours of a summer move as “ridiculous”, but regular rounds of gossip also suggest that the Wales international has given serious consideration to a return to the more familiar surrounds of English football.
The big question, and the only one that really matters, is what does Bale want to do?
It could be argued that there is no better time for him to jump the Real ship, having achieved pretty much all that he set out to when heading for the Spanish capital.
La Liga, Copa del Rey, the Club World Cup and the Champions League (on three occasions), the man from Cardiff has conquered them all, while making 100 appearances in the Spanish top-flight and 151 in total.
For all of those achievements, though, there is an unavoidable sense that he could have done even more.
Injuries have been a problem, with his absence from the side not necessarily making the heart grow fonder amid the Madrid faithful.
Bale was supposed to be the heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo, with a big-money deal done before reaching his supposed peak years so that he could learn from one of the best in the business and eventually inherit a similar standing for himself.
Despite committing to fresh terms in October, the Welshman has struggled to fill his own boots at times, never mind those of a four-time Ballon d’Or winner and a man who will go down in history as one of the greatest of all-time.
Ronaldo’s shadow could be considered more of a hindrance than a help here, with the Portuguese’s absence during pre-season only serving to further highlight how Bale is yet to pick up the talisman baton.
On the back of a season in which he failed to break into double figures in terms of goals scored for the first time since 2009-10, recorded his lowest appearance tally since 2007-08, managed just two assists in La Liga, created only 22 chances and saw his shooting and passing accuracy figures dip, the former Spurs man failed to find the target in 235 minutes of friendly action while in the United States this summer.
Regression rather than progression appears to be the problem for Bale at present.
A fresh start in new surroundings could be what he needs to reignite the spark, while allowing him to set new targets and chase down fresh goals – after all, he has never won the Premier League title.
Real may be making all of the right noises to suggest that they have no intention of entering into transfer talks, but their public commitment to Bale stands in stark contrast to that offered up when Ronaldo found himself at the centre of unwelcome transfer talk.
For example, Sergio Ramos is said to have phoned the Portuguese and pleaded with him to stay at Santiago Bernabeu back in June, but all he could muster when quizzed on Bale recently was: “At the moment Gareth Bale is a player of Real Madrid, we are delighted to have him on board. The future of any player is decided by the player. August is very long and anything can happen.”
More a shrug of the shoulders than a comforting arm around them.
Bale could expect a much warmer embrace at Old Trafford – much like the one he got during an International Champions Cup clash in July – so perhaps he should up sticks, reflect fondly on his time in Madrid and become a Galactico in his own right at the Theatre of Dreams.
Maybe, though, Mourinho was right all along and his outing in Macedonia on Tuesday really has closed the transfer door for 2017!