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Gareth Bale is facing yet more uncertainty over his Real Madrid future as the fallout from Brexit threatens to derail Carlo Ancelotti's plans for his squad.
Bale, 32, spent last season on loan with former club Tottenham and netted 16 goals – an impressive tally given his limited minutes across 34 appearances.
But the Wales superstar will not spend another campaign in north London after newly-appointed manager Nuno Espirito Santo ruled out a return.
This leaves Real Madrid with a major headache, as they are only permitted to have three non-European Union players in their squad in line with La Liga regulations.
Bale is no longer an EU player, presenting Real Madrid with a headache
(Image: Getty Images)
Britain officially left the EU in January 2020 but Spanish football chiefs allowed British players to maintain EU status until the end of the 2020/21 season.
That transition period is now over, meaning Real Madrid have four non-EU players on their payroll – Bale and Brazilian trio Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Eder Militao.
As exclusively reported by Mirror Sport earlier this month, Bale plans to retire next summer after featuring at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for Wales.
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By that time, his lucrative contract with Los Blancos will have expired, but he appears to have no intention of terminating the £600,000-per-week deal one season early.
This leaves Real Madrid scrambling to find a solution for their conundrum, as one of defender Militao, 23, forward Vinicius Jr, 21, or winger Rodrygo, 20, must be offloaded.
Given Los Blancos have lost Sergio Ramos on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain and are reportedly close to selling Raphael Varane to Manchester United, they would be loath to part ways with centre-back Militao.
This means one of Rodrygo or Vinicius Jr may be on the chopping block, at least temporarily, with a season-long loan away from the Santiago Bernabeu. The player in question could then return to Real Madrid next year as Bale departs.
Meanwhile, Los Blancos' cross-town rivals Atletcio Madrid are facing a similar problem regarding non-EU players.
Kieran Tripper counted as an EU member when he joined Atletico from Tottenham in 2019 but has subsequently lost this status.
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A front-page report in Madrid-based newspaper AS notes players born outside Spain can subsequently get around La Liga regulations by obtaining Spanish citizenship.
Atletcio's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and Argentine winger Angel Correa have done so, as well as Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Casemiro.
Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and Militao have submitted applications in a bid to follow suit but the process can take up to two years, meaning there is no quick fix for Real Madrid's pressing issue.