Jiangsu Suning coach Cosmin Olăroiu claims his club's attempt to lure Gareth Bale to the Chinese Super League in the summer of 2019 was '90% done' before Real Madrid demanded a fee late on in the negotiations.
After six seasons with Real Madrid - the latter campaigns plagued by injury - the summer transfer window was once again filled with rumours of a move away from the Bernabéu for Bale, particularly after Los Blancos invested £130m in ready-made replacements Eden Hazard and Rodrygo.
The 30-year-old was strongly linked with a move to China, but a deal is understood to have fallen through because Real demanded a fee for Bale, who they paid a world-record fee for back in 2013, at the last minute.
That's according to Olăroiu at least, who has opened up to The National about why, in his mind at least, a deal fell through.
“It was very close. The club agreed with his agent, his agent was there," Olăroiu began.
"We agreed with Madrid and in the last month – I don’t know what happened there, they lose some friendly games by a big score – Madrid changed their mind.
“First they said they would release him and we would have to pay his salary, then suddenly they said ‘no, you have to pay for the transfer’. And paying the transfer and his salary was a little bit over the budget and so we looked for another player.
“But, actually, I know that it was done 90 per cent in the evening, and then in the morning everything changed. But [that was] Real Madrid, not us.”
Bale's season has again been disrupted by injury, with the Welshman missing 13 games so far this season with various niggles and ailments. He's not the only Real Madrid winger to have suffered with fitness concerns, though, with Hazard also struggling with injury so far this season.
Bale wasn't in the squad for the weekend's defeat but will surely be called upon - fitness permitting - as his side take on Manchester City in the Champions League last 16, despite his long-term future remaining uncertain.