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21st May 2019

Gareth Bale deserves better than how he’s been treated by Real Madrid

Reuben Pinder

Denying him a send off showed a gross under-appreciation for everything Bale has done at Real Madrid

Ever since his arrival at Real Madrid in 2013, which came after a long, tiresome, transfer saga that only ever had one ending, Gareth Bale has been the subject of much debate. Costing a world record €100m, there was a lot of pressure on his shoulders.

At Real Madrid, there is no room for failure. Only the best is good enough. And for the most part, despite what MARCA, or Zinedine Zidane might have you believe, he has delivered.

Bale was denied the opportunity to bid farewell to Madrid fans during the last weekend of the LaLiga season, as Zidane opted not to bring him on while two goals down to Real Betis, a damning indictment on how the Welshman is viewed by his manager, both as a person and a player.

As his teammates waved goodbye to the fans who remained in the stadium after a dismal, trophy-less season, Bale headed down the tunnel back into the dressing room. Zidane’s message was clear: you are not wanted here.

Bale’s relationship with Zidane now looks irreparably broken, and the club will look to offload the player rather than the manager having promised him a lavish summer spending spree to convince him to return.

That’s fine. But to deny the player a send off after everything he has done for the club which never quite made him feel at home, demonstrates a complete lack of respect and appreciation for Bale’s achievements.

Real Madrid have never been a club wedded to a philosophy, a particular way of playing; that would make them far too much like Barcelona. All they care about is winning trophies, and Bale ensured that they did that on several occasions.

The solo run from the half-way line against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final at Mestalla, as he left Marc Bartra in a cloud of dust before poking the ball under José Pinto in the 85th minute.

Just over a month later, the header at the back post to put Madrid in front in extra-time against Atlético – the goal that clinched the illusive Decima. Possibly the greatest goal in Champions League history against Liverpool to ensure Madrid retained the coveted trophy. Madrid’s recent history could have looked very different were it not for Bale.

He hasn’t just been a moments player either. He has scored 102 goals in 231 matches for Madrid, all the while dealing with recurring calf injuries. Good figures, albeit not quite Cristiano Ronaldo good. And that was always the problem with Bale: he wasn’t Ronaldo.

His build, position, age, transfer fee and explosive style of play set expectations of Bale that he would never be able to reach. Ronaldo – and Messi – have distorted our vision of football to the extent that a record of one goal in every 2.2 matches for a winger is now considered below par.

And that was the main contributing factor to the disappointment at his performances this season. Ronaldo had departed, it was time for Bale to step up. Alas, he did not, at least not in the way they had hoped.

In a season when Madrid went through three managers, won no trophies and finished 19 points behind Barcelona – the biggest margin between the two rivals ever – Bale was still portrayed as the club’s main problem to solve, even the source of the club’s problems.

It’s worth noting that the Welshman could probably have done more to fit in at the club. His poor level of Spanish and his obsession with golf have often been used as a stick to beat him with. But languages do not come easily to a lot of people, and people are allowed to have hobbies outside of their profession. It’s miraculous that Bale managed to keep himself in a good enough mental state to deliver in the big moments given the constantly high level of scrutiny of his every move.

He may not get his move this summer. A romantic return to Tottenham has been mooted but bringing Bale ‘home’ is not top of their priorities. With three years left on his contract, and no obvious suitor to take the 29-year-old off Madrid’s hands, it looks as though this fairytale turned nightmare may go on for a while longer.

The club would be wise to make amends with Bale and get him back on side. It’s the least he deserves after playing such an important role in their recent era of dominance.