"The last position in which I see Bale is the far right," John Toshack told El Confidencial in an interview in today's edition. Unfortunately for Gareth Bale, the first position that Real Madrid sees him operating in is exactly there.
Toshack is well qualified to enter the debate over just what has gone wrong with the former Tottenham Hotspur man's form with the European champions. The 66-year-old has coached both Madrid and Wales on two separate occasions and watches the Cardiff-born 25-year-old in action domestically and on the international stage more than most.
On one hand, Toshack watches a confidence-sapped player who plays on the fringes of a star-studded Madrid team week-in, week-out. On the other, he sees a player bursting with confidence in leading his nation to what he hopes will be France Euro 2016 and a first major tournament since 1958. The comparisons over recent months have been staggering.
Toshack knows Bale's qualities but he also knows first-hand what he is going through in the Spanish capital. Thanks to two spells managing in the unique environment of Real Madrid, Toshack understands the heavy weight that is piled on shoulders and the demanding nature of the Bernabeu public. He knows all about looking after big individual names in a collective environment. If there is one man to have a quiet word in the ear of his fellow countryman, Toshack is probably it.
"I do not know what is happening," Toshack continued. "I do not think he should be playing on the right." Nor do many others but the right side of Madrid's three-pronged attack looks the only place in which he will be able to feature regularly while Ancelotti is at the helm.
The Italian needs to squeeze Florentino Perez's prized assets into his starting eleven and not leave them sitting on the bench. With a 4-3-3 and with Bale on the right-side it allows Ancelotti to do just that and keep his president happy. Whether the fans, and indeed the players are happy is another matter.
To put it bluntly, the biggest problem Bale is up against is a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star is the first name down on Ancelotti's team-sheet, and rightly so, but the former Manchester United man is only happy playing wide on the left. A switch to the right to accommodate Bale or a more central role will not be forthcoming while Ronaldo is strutting his stuff at the Bernabeu.
That, of course, is justified. Ronaldo has scored over 50 goals this season and his hat-trick in Seville, followed by his consolation goal in Turin, has kept his side in the race for both the Champions League and La Liga. He has won back-to-back Ballon d'Or awards and, alongside Lionel Messi, has been breaking records at a sensational and unprecedented rate in recent seasons. While he is in this kind of form there is no reason to upset the apple cart and move Ronaldo about.
Bale has struggled on the right and would be more suited to a role down the left, or indeed through the middle where he played with Tottenham. He also played out on the right in the Premier League with the London club but that only paid off because that came as a shock with opposing teams lining up tactically to flood the middle and thwart his dangerous runs and long-distance shots.
It is not just in an attacking trio where he would shine, however. One of his stand-out qualities is his pace and a deeper role in a midfield three or four could also be considered. The Welshman has hardly been able to produce the bursts of speed that saw him win the Copa del Rey for Madrid against Barcelona last season. An out-and-out left-wing role or one similar to that of Angel di Maria last season could work. If it did for the Argentine, Bale could benefit from a similar upheaval.
Madrid's use of Bale is partly down to the player's poor form but it is not everything. The forward's confidence has been sapped to such an extent that he looks like the shell of the player who caught Perez's attention during the days in which he led Tottenham. Bale has gone from a big fish in a smaller pond to a supporting act for Ronaldo. At first he looked forward to playing alongside a man he wanted to emulate but now he is suffering.
He is suffering from the demands of a player who wants to be the best in the world and and the whistles from the Bernabeu crowd. The latter is something that he will get used to if he wants to prolong his career in the Spanish capital but the pressure of his own team-mates is something entirely different.
Examples of a relationship breakdown between Madrid's biggest two stars have been apparent for a while but on Tuesday against Juventus one play saw Bale break free and hesitate on the ball as he powered forward and saw Ronaldo to his right. A few years ago in the white of Tottenham he would have gone it alone, trying to beat the Juventus defenders with his pace and power but this time he was caught in two minds. Eventually the Juve defenders committed a foul.
Ever since the infamous reports of the Welshman being selfish appeared Bale has not been the same. In some matches he has tried too hard to go it alone and be himself, in others he has tried the opposite. He has never had the peace of mind just to play the way he wants, the way that would benefit both him and the team.
Bale is desperate to succeed at Madrid and not be deemed a flop and if he is to achieve longevity he needs to knuckle down and make the role on the right of Madrid's front three his own. While a start on the left or in a ‘No.10' role would suit Madrid's most expensive player, that will not be forthcoming - not for a while.