Gareth Bale can’t win. First they call him a cold fish, a cardboard cut-out of a footballer with no sense of fun who contributes nothing to team spirit – in bed before 10pm when the lads are out for a meal.
Then he jokes about, in the stands, mask over eyes, or pretend binoculars, and he’s told off for not being serious enough.
‘Bale is playing around,’ says Jorge Valdano, former Real Madrid player and coach, ‘but Madrid is not a game’.
Gareth Bale (left) remains stuck in limbo at Real Madrid where he has two years left on his deal
Whatever Real Madrid’s second all-time most expensive signing does on the bench is likely to be scrutinised and criticised. The glum look tends to provoke criticism of him being isolated from the team.
The demob-happy look brings the accusation that he has no respect for the club.
Bale’s only chance of getting back into favour at Real Madrid this season appeared to be based on Zinedine Zidane failing and a new coach coming in. Zidane is on the brink of guiding the team to the league title and would appear to be going nowhere.
Madrid have won their last nine games and Bale has played just 102 minutes in that time. Where once it seemed daft to overlook him, it’s now easier to justify leaving him out.
The future is Vinicius, Rodrygo Goes, Marcos Asensio, and the brilliant 19-year-old Japan international on loan at Mallorca, Takefusa Kubo.
Bale made a ‘binoculars’ gesture during Real Madrid’s win at Granada on Monday evening
The Friday before that, he pretended to doze off by using his face mask to cover his eyes
Spanish newspaper Marca were scathing of Bale’s actions on the substitutes bench in Madrid
So does that mean Bale leaves this summer? Not necessarily because he is one of a group of players whose contract situation far exceeds his current market value.
It’s a sort of ‘football negative equity’. No one will pay Bale the same money he is on at Real Madrid and cough-up a sizeable transfer fee. The same can be said for Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona and Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain. So Bale, like the other three, is stuck.
Has there been a falling out between him and Zidane? Not unless the one that happened at the start of the season counts.
Frederic Hermel is the author of a recently published biography of Zidane. He has followed his career since 2001 when L’Equipe sent him to cover Zidane’s arrival at Real Madrid.
In a recent interview with Diario Sport, Hermel was asked what most defines Zidane’s personality and he replied: ‘What most defines him is his rectitude. He is a guy who bases everything on trust. If you abuse that trust, he puts a cross next to your name and it’s over. He doesn’t forgive [that].’
It feels as if Bale, more than lose Zidane’s trust, never really had it in the first place.
Zidane wanted the Welshman sold last summer before later making a U-turn on his stance
Real will probably win the league on Thursday night and Bale (top) will watch…