Gareth Bale cannot win. First they call him a cold fish, a cardboard cutout of a footballer without a sense of fun that adds nothing to the team spirit – in bed before 10pm when the boys are out for dinner.
Then he jokes about it, in the stands, masks his eyes or pretends he has binoculars, and is told he’s not serious enough.
“Bale is playing,” said Jorge Valdano, former Real Madrid player and coach, “but Madrid is not a game.”
Gareth Bale (left) gets stuck in limbo at Real Madrid, with two years left on his deal
What Real Madrid’s second most expensive signing ever on the bank is likely to be scrutinized and criticized. The gloomy look often criticizes the fact that he is isolated from the team.
The demob-happy look brings the accusation that he has no respect for the club.
Bale’s only chance to regain favor with Real Madrid this season seemed to be based on the failure of Zinedine Zidane and a new coach. Zidane is about to lead the team to the league title and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Madrid have won the last nine games and Bale played only 102 minutes at the time. Where it once seemed silly to overlook him, it is now easier to justify excluding him.
The future is Vinicius, Rodrygo Goes, Marcos Asensio and the brilliant 19-year-old Japanese international on loan in Mallorca, Takefusa Kubo.
Bale made a ‘binocular’ gesture on Monday night during Real Madrid’s victory in Granada
The Friday before, he pretended to doze off by using his face mask to cover his eyes
Spanish newspaper Marca quashed Bale’s actions on the bench for substitutes in Madrid
Does this mean that Bale is leaving this summer? Not necessarily because it is part of a group of players whose contract situation far exceeds its current market value.
It is a kind of ‘negative football soccer’. No one will pay Bale the same money as Real Madrid and cough up a hefty transfer fee. The same can be said for Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele in Barcelona and Neymar in Paris Saint-Germain. So Bale, like the other three, is stuck.
Has there been a fight between him and Zidane? Unless the one that happened at the beginning of the season counts.
Frederic Hermel is the author of a recently published biography of Zidane. He has been following his career since 2001 L’Equipe sent him to cover Zidane’s arrival in Real Madrid.
In a recent interview with Diario SportHermel was asked what defines Zidane’s personality the most and he replied, “What defines him most is his sincerity. He is a man who bases everything on trust. If you abuse that trust, he puts a cross next to your name and it’s over. He does not forgive [that]. ‘
It feels like Bale, more than losing Zidane’s confidence, never really had it.
Zidane wanted the Welshman to be sold last summer before later reversing his attitude
Real will probably win the competition on Thursday evening and Bale (top) will watch from the stands
But the insight into the character of the coach, from someone who knows him well, underlines what an impossible job Bale had to win for the coach.
Bale is also stubborn. It was one thing for Zidane to want to sell it back in 2018, but it was quite another, and much more serious for him to say in public last summer that Bale was leaving and the sooner it happened the better.
And the coach made it clear that he didn’t want Bale to join the club, after which Real Madrid turned around and pulled the plug on a lucrative move to China because they wanted compensation from Jiangsu Suning.
At the beginning of the season, it seemed that there would be a marriage of convenience between Bale and Zidane. They were stuck together, so why not make it work?
In four of the first seven games, Bale played 90 minutes and scored twice. But he never believed that there had been a thaw between him and the coach and put his playing time down to an early season injury crisis that robbed Zidane of both Eden Hazard and Asensio.
They are now both back and on the team for Bale going into games knowing he has no chance of playing a part. Hazard’s only goal from 15 starts is far from Bale’s first season when he scored 15. But for now, Bale remains in the spotlight.
Hazard reached one goal in his debut season with Real, but Bale remained in the spotlight
Real Madrid will likely win the league on Thursday-evening and he will watch from the sidelines. Both he and Zidane know that if there were no buyers for him before the pre-corona virus financial crisis, it is unlikely to happen.
The only thing that keeps Bale from running away from the real annoyance of Real Madrid supporters for the last two years of his contract is that another club has come up with an agreement that matches wages, and this time Madrid accepts the sale without cost.
Bale’s pay has already been cut as part of the team’s agreed 10 percent pay cut during lockdown, and if there is a further agreed cut this summer, they will be easier to match.
Meanwhile, Madrid’s desire to avoid being inactive for a season on the sidelines would mean this time they let him go without a transfer fee.
He does not feel like playing in Europe, satisfied that he has won everything he could have won in Spain. The China option could be revived, the MLS method explored.
But for all that, he has two games to wait – and as the binoculars showed Tuesday, he knows the world will look.
Bale grinned after Zidane made his fifth and final substitution in Friday’s clash with Alaves