Gareth Bale is no longer a priority for Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane, claims Jorge Valdano, although the club are not forcing him into the shop window.
Speculation continues to suggest that the Wales international’s days at Santiago Bernabeu are numbered.
His trophy haul has not kept him immune from criticism, though, with more whistles aimed in his direction from an expectant fan base during a La Liga outing against Athletic Bilbao.
He started on the bench again in that contest, with Zidane only giving him 20 minutes at the end.
Former Real player and manager Valdano believes Bale no longer has a prominent role to play in the Blancos’ future, telling El Transistor: “Something interesting happened on Sunday: his first touch was whistled, but then, when he was through one on one, he dinked the ball just over the bar and was widely applauded.
“People still expect promise that has never been fulfilled. To his credit, he has fulfilled this promise at critical times, with trophies on the line, but, judging his performances regularly, he has produced less than expected."
Valdano added: "At any rate, Bale would be starting if Madrid wanted to cash in. Zidane has other priorities. He's looking at players for next season."
Bale is being linked with a summer move elsewhere, but exit talk has quietened around Karim Benzema on the back of a productive run from the Frenchman which included a hat-trick against Athletic.
Valdano said of the 31-year-old frontman: “He's really embraced being the main figure and in areas we never expected.
“A year or so ago, we would never have thought it, when he was more of a 10 than a nine. Now he's playing as a nine and a ten and with confidence.
“At the moment, there is no bigger player at the club and people recognise that.”
While saluting Benzema’s contribution to the collective cause, Valdano believes Real will be in the market for another striker in the next transfer window after failing to properly replace Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018.
The ex-Argentina international said: “Real Madrid will make a mistake if they don't sign another striker.
“They have to sign a player with different qualities, which is not easy; they can't just sign another player to displace Benzema; it's not worth spending 200 million in that position.
“Money has to be spent in other positions, in goalscoring midfielders. The starting striker position is covered at the moment.”