Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has been the focus of unwanted attention in the Spanish media lately following his omission from the team’s starting line-up for the third time in four games. Since joining the Los Blancos from Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in the 2014 summer transfer window, Bale hasn't been able to show his full potential on the pitch. It arguably boils down to his fitness.
Bale started for Real in the team’s 3-1 win at Leganes on the bench, just as he had done against Real Sociedad and in their Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint Germain.
Right from the Southampton days, the Welshman’s career so far has been based on his physical abilities. It was Bale’s fitness that caught the eye of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy but now, it seems that the Bernabeu faithful have grown tired of the precarious nature of the 28-year-old's fitness, with reports suggesting that the Madrid camp has decided to move on from someone they saw competing with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bale is yet to show what he is capable of and there is no doubt about the quality he possesses but the 70-plus games he has missed since arriving in Madrid five years ago is forcing club president Fiorentino Perez to look for options elsewhere. This is an indication that Bale's career in Spain is heading towards ‘is he any good?’ territory.
On Sunday, coach Zinedine Zidane selected Bale to start against Real Betis but he had little impact in his side’s thrilling 5-3 win, missing two clear chances in the second half before being substituted, and he was not directly involved in any of Madrid’s goals.
“There is a problem with Bale,” Spanish newspaper AS reported on Thursday.
“He has gone from being undroppable to dispensable for Zidane, and his attitude isn’t helping. The Wales forward is aware of his change in status and his gestures in the last few games reflect the bad mood he is in at the moment.”
Spanish daily Marca went further, stating in an article headlined “Bale’s credit has run out” that Madrid have already decided to sell the 28-year-old at the end of the season.
“Bale’s capacity to get involved in the team’s play is inversely proportional to his extraordinary conditions,” said the newspaper.
“Bale plays games as he lives: isolated in his own world, distant.”
The 85-million-pound signing is among Real’s highest paid players after signing a bumper new contract in 2016 but his last two seasons at the club have been blighted by injuries. He required a surgery to treat ruptured ankle ligaments last season and later admitted he had paid the price for rushing back to action too soon.
Bale might have won the Champions League on three occasions but he hardly played a part in Madrid’s domestic campaigns with only a handful of notable outings. His current campaign has been hampered by persistent muscle problems and although he has not had any recurring injuries since returning to action in December, he has not played more than 80 minutes in over a month.
Rather like last season, when Madrid swept to the Liga and Champions League titles when Bale was mostly on the sidelines, his drop in influence has coincided with a resurgence in his team, who have won four games in a row in all competitions.
Zidane has refrained from criticising Bale but has also stopped short of giving him his full backing in recent weeks.
“I‘m happy with him, we have to take things slowly with him,” Zidane said recently.
“What we want is for him to hit top form so we’re taking it like this. We’ll then decide whether he plays in our next games. We are doing well at the moment and I‘m going to count on everyone.”
At 28, it would be foolish to write him off but he seems to be running out of time at Madrid, a club known for its impatient fanbase and board. The media outburst also suggests that Madrid have grown tired of waiting for Bale to justify his price-tag.
With inputs from Reuters
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2018 20:53:22 IST