Gareth Bale is mystified. Is it because he’s not Spanish that the Real Madrid fans are on his back? Is he a victim of colleague Cristiano Ronaldo believing Bale is there only to provide him with goals and shouldn’t be trying to score them himself?
There clearly is dissent in the Real Madrid dressing room. You do not have to be an expert in body language to see that.
Ronaldo makes a point of throwing his arms in the air each time Bale does not pass the ball to him. He may be one of the best players in the world, but Ronaldo is also a drama queen. He’s playing to an audience he has long believed to be his.
Bale and Ronaldo seemed to get off on the right foot. In their early days at Real there were shots of them smiling and joking. And in games they celebrated goals together. Not now. So what has led to the breakdown in relations between the men?
Spanish football correspondent Pete Jenson says: “Cristiano Ronaldo does cast a huge shadow over the team. I think if an offer came in for him, Florentino Pérez would consider selling Ronaldo just because he’s 30 and he could recoup a huge sum of money.
“Ronaldo and Bale are two big players. You have to wonder if there is a future for both of them in the same side.”
So what’s changed this campaign?
Jenson says: “Last season Gareth Bale was given free rein. This season that’s not the case. He’s been asked to do more defensive work and he does it as well as he can, but he can’t also be on the shoulder of the last defender ready for that ball over the top.
“Gareth is a bit confused at the moment and he also can’t work out why he’s not getting a little more respect for all he did last season.
“Part of the reason Gareth is playing on the right is because Ronaldo wants to play on the left so that he can come in on his right foot and score more goals. He’s scored 31 this season.”
And what about those supporters who have not only booed, jeered and spat at Bale; but have also booed Ronaldo himself. What is their problem? Pete Jenson explains.
“Real Madrid fans are spoilt. I think it is a loud minority that gets lots of publicity and it just creates a bad feeling around the club.”
“The players flew back after the Barcelona game and collected their cars at the training ground and a small group of supporters were at the gates ready to kick out at their cars. They laid a boot on Gareth Bale’s white Bentley as he drove away.”
And what of the future of manager Carlo Ancelotti? Like most before him, you have to manage Real Madrid with at least one arm tied behind your back. The President buys and sells players. Ancelotti may be, as some have said, more a facilitator than a manager but that makes him the ideal man for that job. After all, while the President decides which players you have at your disposal, it is the star players themselves who dictate how the team will play on the pitch. It has ever been thus at Real Madrid.
Pete Jenson believes Real Madrid to be incapable of employing a manager long term.
He says: “It’s very hard to stay for any length of time as manager of Real Madrid and I expect Carlo Ancelotti will leave at the end of the season and get another big job, which he deserves for what he’s achieved.
“Maybe Real Madrid will look to Zinedine Zidane. The only danger for the President is if he gives the job to Zidane and things go wrong. The fans would blame Florentino Pérez and not Zidane.”
For my part, writes Vernon Grant, I have found the histrionics of Ronaldo to be divisive and deplorable. He has pointed the finger at the Welshman on the pitch and led fans to believe recent bad results are down to Bale being selfish with the ball. Pot, kettle, black Cristiano.
Ronaldo believes his colleagues exist to provide him with goalscoring opportunities. He was furious when Real Madrid sold Mesut Ozil (who had the record number of assists in European football) and beside himself with anger when Florentino Perez sold Ángel Di Maria to Manchester United. Players who, as far as Ronaldo was concerned, did as they were told. By him.
Gareth Bale has not complied. There was a point last season when his goals and gallant efforts made Ronaldo feel threatened. The supporters were beginning to like Bale too much. Ronaldo couldn’t be having that. He is número uno.
Despite all Bale did on the pitch last season, and regardless of the huge challenge he faced in being a foreigner in the country of another man, those supporters have now turned against him and they have been encouraged to do so by Cristiano Ronaldo. A wonderful player with an ego the size of Spain and someone who is not a team player.
It’s hard to feel sorry for a multi-millionaire footballer. Especially one who drives a Bentley. But I do feel for Gareth Bale.
It’s tough being a ‘Guiri’ living in Spain. The treatment he’s receiving in Madrid proves that no amount of money protects you from unwanted criticism and xenophobia.
He could have taken the easy option. Lots of other talented British footballers have done that. Few British footballers have succeeded overseas and there were more reasons for him not to join Real Madrid than there were for him to become a small fish in a vast, shark infested pond.
Gareth Bale did not run scared from a life changing decision. He grabbed the opportunity and, despite being played out of position in his early games, set about proving the doubters wrong. He has worked hard in the gym and transformed his body into one bulging with muscle.
Bale contributed hugely to Real Madrid becoming Champions League winners and he’s played wherever manager Carlo Ancelottio has asked him to. Without throwing his toys from the pram. He´s scored great goals, like the one below.
But, in no small part thanks to his more famous colleague, Gareth has become a hate figure on the terraces at the Bernabéu. Those Real Madrid fans are born with a sense of entitlement out of all propotion to reality.
Gareth should bail out of Spain at the end of this season and come back to a land where his skills are more readily appreciated.