Real Madrid’s hopes of dispensing with the services of Gareth Bale this summer are looking ever dimmer as the forward prepares to start the pre-season with the Blancos. Having already splashed out on five new signings in the current transfer window, Madrid know that, once Ferland Mendy is presented, Operation Exit must begin in earnest. With 37 players cluttering up the first-team squad the club must undergo a significant clear-out at the start of pre-season, which begins on July 8. Almost a third of those have been declared up for sale by those in charge at the Bernabeu. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Some of the Madrid squad have begun to pack their bags. Marco Llorente crossed the road for Atletico Madrid, while Mateo Kovacic is set to make permanent his move to Chelsea in the coming days. But there has been no movement on the man Florentino Perez would most like to see leave, and who, if he stays, is set to become an expensive pariah in 2019-20.The case of Bale is crucial to Madrid. Coach Zinedine Zidane has no interest in fielding the Wales international, a fact he showed no qualms in making clear towards the end of last season. But Bale will nevertheless be getting on the plane to Montreal with the rest of the Blancos squad, Goal can confirm, as what would have been the club’s biggest sale of the summer is completely stalled.For his part the player has similarly made clear that he wants to stay at the Bernabeu, ignoring the unsubtle hints sent his way by Zidane as well as the arrival of several new signings set to push him out of the forward line.The former Southampton and Tottenham winger would only consider a transfer that assures him the same lavish wage package he will enjoy in the Spanish capital until his contract expires in June 2022.There is no sign that the situation will be resolved with any haste. Right now there are no meetings planned to discuss his sale, no offers on the table and very little interest in Bale. Unless there is a rapid breakthrough, then, Zidane and Bale will meet face to face next week, prior to the start of the tour, ensuring some rather awkward silences on the long plane trip to Canada and later the United States.
The Military Wives Choir has gone up against their former mentor in the Christmas charts, as early figures show they have a lead over Gareth Malone.The famous choir master helped the charity group beat pop group Little Mix in the race to number one five years ago.But now their two singles – the Military Wives’ Home For Christmas and Gareth’s Only You – are competing for the top spot. #HomeForChristmas is number 2 in the classical charts, just behind @realaled! Let’s try and get that number 1 in time for Christmas pic.twitter.com/SZneFwPIAT— MilitaryWives Choirs (@MWChoirs) December 5, 2016 With more than 1,000 wives taking part, the group features 65 choirs who have joined up to release the collection of 12 carols and songs personalised with lyrics reflecting what Christmas means to the military community. The Military Wives’ album of the same name is currently number two in the Classical Album charts, while Mr Malone’s A Great British Christmas album – which was only released on the 2 December – has not yet featured.“It’s going well so far,” said Rosie Dow, the director of Military Wives.“It’s been a steady start and I think it’s well ahead now.“Gareth is our friend and patron so it’s been great fun taking him on. He hasn’t been involved in this campaign or album. But the women think it’s funny we are going up against him. They love him. We hope we beat him – in a fun and friendly way of course.” One member of the group is Beth Calvert, 34, whose husband Chris is tactical submariner and will be away until the spring.“It’s hard having him away,” said Beth. “I have four kids – ranging from 17 to 9 – and they will miss their dad over Christmas. We have no contact whatsoever and have no idea where he is. “I didn’t see the lyrics of the single until the day of recording. And when I heard them I just burst into tears because it related so much to me, with Chris being away.“We are reminding people that these members of the military can go for months on end with no family contact. For me the choir is a lifesaver because its all wives of submariners – we all understand what each other is going through.”On going up against Gareth Malone, Beth said there had been “a lot of banter” among the ladies but said: “There’s definitely no hard feelings. We didn’t expect to go up against him so it’s all fun and games.” Gareth Malone is aiming for the top spot Only You Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. I didn’t see the lyrics of the single until the day of recording. And when I heard them I just burst into tears because it related so much to me, with Chris being awayBeth Calvert