When Zinedine Zidane humiliated Gareth Bale by leaving him in the stands for Real Madrid's first friendly of the pre-season and then admitted publicly that the sooner he leaves the better, he had one thing in mind – force the player's exit.
When Bale's agent, Jonathan Barnett responded, calling Zidane a 'disgrace' it seemed to have worked – how can Bale possibly continue at Real Madrid? But the problem remains: where will he go?
Everywhere the club and the player turn there are huge obstacles to a straightforward departure from Spain. Sportsmail looks at operation 'Exit Madrid' and explains why it is still fraught with problems.
Gareth Bale training with his Real Madrid team-mates at the FedEx Field on Sunday night
Real manager Zinedine Zidane left Bale in the stands for their first pre-season match
There has been a back and forth with Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett over the last few days
The Chinese can pay his wages. That is one major stumbling block out of the way.
Shanghai Shenhua will pay him more than his current £350,000 and Jiangsu Suning and Beijing Guoan are both prepared to match what he earns at Madrid. But there are two problems: None of the three clubs want to pay a sizeable fee for the Welshman; and Bale would prefer not to go to China.
Chinese tax laws oblige clubs to pay the state as much in tax as they pay to any foreign club to sign a player. When Sergio Ramos presented Real Madrid with an offer, earlier this summer from a Chinese club, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez recoiled in horror on hearing that there was no transfer fee. He told Ramos: you can't possible leave on a free, and he is likely to respond in exactly the same way.
Chinese clubs are keen on Bale but would probably not be keen to pay a transfer fee
Any Chinese club 1/3
Bayern Munich 9/2
Manchester United 11/1
Paris Saint-Germain 10/1
Odds according to Oddschecker
Perez does not have a problem with Bale. It's Zidane who has a problem with Bale. As far as Perez is concerned Bale remains a big commercial name and is also the player who scores him winning goals in European Cup finals. He only wants to sell Bale if it generates money. What is true, however, is that if Bale leaves he will save the club almost €60m (£53m) in salary over the next three years.
If a Chinese club can put together some sort of fee; if Perez accepts that he is at least reducing his wage bill; and if Bale reluctantly turns his back on playing in Europe, then this could happen. But it must happen this week or not at all because the window in China closes on July 31.
Probability: 3.5/5Return to Tottenham
This one is a lot easier to explain. They can't afford him so it's a