Jiangsu Suning coach Cosmin Olăroiu has lifted the lid on how close he came to luring Real Madrid star Gareth Bale to the Chinese Super League.
Bale was heavily linked with a switch to Jiangsu during the summer of 2019, having reportedly agreed a deal that would have seen him earn £1 million per week.
With the 30-year-old out of favour under Zinedine Zidane and continuing to face criticism over his form and fitness in Spain, a new challenge was sought by a man presented with a lucrative contract by Jiangsu.
Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett spoke to AS earlier this month stating that his client was keen on making the move to the Far East.
He got an offer that was impossible to refuse. But Real Madrid wouldn't sell him. They (Jiangsu Suning) couldn't pay what Madrid wanted.
He wanted to create a legacy. He wanted to bring Chinese football up. He had a vision that he could make Chinese football great. He's won everything that he can win, and he's done it many times.
It was to create a legacy, his name, to be the first great player to go to China. But it wasn't to be... And the money was special too. It would have made him the highest paid player on Earth.
But Bale, who joined Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a then-record fee of £83.7 million, remained in the Spanish capital after talks broke down at the last minute.
And now Olăroiu has revealed the former Southampton man would have joined them last summer had Madrid not insisted on a transfer fee at the last minute.
Speaking to United Arab Emirates news outlet The National, Olăroiu said:
It was very close. The club agreed with his agent, his agent was there.
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 percent in the evening, and then in the morning everything changed. But Real Madrid, not us.
Chinese Super League guidelines implemented in early 2018 mean Jiangsu would have had to pay a 100 percent levy on any fee over ¥45 million (£4.95 million) for Bale.
And combined with the Welsman's wages of £12.5 million per year, made the deal excessively pricey for Jiangsu.
Meanwhile, Bale - who still has two years left to run on his contract at the Bernabéu - has featured in just 17 games this season, with the attacker chipping in with three goals and two assists.