VIEWS FROM SPAIN: Gareth Bale’s contribution is worth the frustration for a manager who knows how to use him … Zinedine Zidane has given him up to Real Madrid, but Jose Mourinho would like to prove the French wrong
- Gareth Bale’s biggest problem at Real Madrid is manager Zinedine Zidane
- Bale once saved Zidane’s job but was put aside by the French
- Under the right boss, Bale’s contribution is still worth the frustration he brings
- Jose Mourinho would enjoy the chance to revive the Welshman’s faltering career
A good player, a good riddance, will be how most Real Madrid supporters send Gareth Bale away when he completes a transfer to Tottenham this summer.
He will think much the same about a club where whatever he has accomplished never seemed enough to earn the affection of the fans.
He would have attained immortality at any other club in the world before the end of his first season.
Gareth Bale’s biggest problem at Real Madrid was Zinedine Zidane, but he could thrive under the right manager
Jose Mourinho could be the guy to turn him around and he would enjoy the challenge too
But running half the length of the field with the ball at his feet to win the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona has long been forgotten.
Six years later, his’ Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order, ‘flag will be his epitaph in Spain as much as the four European Cups he won.
That evening in April 2014, when Bale flew past Barcelona’s Marc Bartra to give Real Madrid a 2-1 victory, sealed the first of 13 trophies at the club.
There would be other important goals. A month later, he got Madrid’s second in the 4-1 Champions League final defeat to Atletico Madrid, and he scored twice in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool in 2018.
But big goals in big games were never enough. In his last two seasons, there have been booing whenever he touched the ball at the Santiago Bernabeu. Last November, the abuse took a surreal turn when he was even whistled while assisting a goal for Luka Modric.
Bale helped save Zidane’s job with his double in the Champions League final win over Liverpool
He will never play 50 games per season, but is still capable of great moments in big games
“I hope this doesn’t last all season,” said manager Zinedine Zidane after that game, the first since the flag incident.
The slogan ‘Wales, golf, Madrid’ was coined by one of his critics on Spanish radio and adopted by Bale when humor seemed the best way to fight back.
He also tried to respond with anger. In February 2019, he scored the winner for Madrid in a 2-1 win against Levante, but refused to celebrate, pushing away a teammate.
There was also an offensive gesture in lieu of a goal celebration after scoring against Atletico Madrid. The booing of his own supporters had touched him.
The ‘sleeve cut’ gesture he was accused of using in the Atletico game is considered insulting in Spain, but he escaped punishment and experts joked that the only sanction he deserved was that he couldn’t get it right to carry out.
That joke brought up another of his problems: the feeling that he hadn’t assimilated.
Bale barely played after lockdown and didn’t even fly to Manchester for their European trip
David Beckham won one La Liga title in Spain and was no more able to give interviews in Spanish than Bale, but he charmed journalists and teammates alike.
Beckham had Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo in front of his back. Bale, although respected and never unpopular, had Thibaut Courtois reveal in an interview that his nickname in the locker room was ‘The Golfer’.
Involvement in local media is said to have helped Bale’s case. A radio host this week called him the club’s most disappointing signing of the past decade – a ludicrous accusation for a player with so many medals.
And when Bale scored a hat-trick in a Club World Cup semi-final in December 2018, there was no praise, just an accusation that he was only saving himself for big games.
He has previously confirmed his love for Spurs, who are desperately trying to bring him back
The negative coverage and growing animosity with the club’s supporters fed off each other and meant that Zidane had it easy when he left Bale in the stands.
The relationship was damaged beyond repair in 2018 when Bale believed his form had got him a start in the Champions League final. Zidane took offense at Bale who said so publicly afterwards.
Zidane wanted Bale to be gone. He repeated that desire a year later, saying publicly that he wanted him out “sooner than later.” There was no return of that.
Bale will love coming to work for Jose Mourinho every morning instead of a forced buenos dias with Zidane. And he will welcome the warmth of Spurs supporters after years of cold indifference in Madrid turned to hostility.