This just in: Gareth Bale is human. Yes, you heard me. He’s not just some emotionless robot who runs down the wing, whips in a cross or smashes home a free-kick from miles out, but rather a man who thinks and feels, and so there can be no way that the recent abuse he’s received from the Real Madrid fans and the Spanish press won’t have affected him somewhat.
The Welshman has come under fire in Spain since his world record £85m move, despite scoring crucial goals that helped Real Madrid secure the Champions League and Copa del Rey last term. The former Tottenham stalwart says he ignores abuse from Madrid fans and opposition supporters when playing, yet the attacker’s performances this season have dipped, and he has accused of being selfish after deciding to go it alone rather than passing to teammates when through on goal.
There have even been calls for him to be dropped and sold by sections of fans following polls in Madrid based newspaper Marca. However, in spite of the mounting pressure he is facing from fans, Bale says he just shrugs it all off and focuses on his football.
As a result, his response in the recent game against Levante was quite fantastic. When scoring the first of his two goals in the 2-0 win, Bale ran towards a corner of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, kicked over a corner flag and cupped his ears. This was him showing that the criticism he’s been receiving lately wasn’t affecting him. Judging by Cristiano Ronaldo’s rather bizarre reaction his steadfastness might not necessarily be universally admired, but so far this is a test that the Welshman has come through with flying colours. So why the criticism?
Well, Real were winless in their previous three games, enough of a run to spark talk of a crisis at that most demanding of clubs. And when there’s a crisis, the most expensive footballer in the world is probably going to get singled out. In truth Bale hasn’t been performing to his normal high standards for a few weeks now.
Before the Levante game, his previous strike was a last minute penalty to win a game at Cordoba on January 24th, which was largely due to an overall malaise at a club who were always going to have to have a comedown following the sparkling early season form which featured 22 wins in a row in all competitions. This little spell of struggle has featured a 4-0 hammering in a Madrid derby, a loss in Bilbao and that remarkable second leg Champions League defeat to Schalke which ultimately counts for little.
Bale has been at the centre of this storm, largely because attempts to look elsewhere are met with more than a sideways glance at Ronaldo’s remarkable scoring rate, something which really only one other player in world football can match. He goes into Wales’ game against Israel on March 28th as the best player in both squads, something that every player on the pitch will also know.
Coming through this spell of criticism still smiling and still scoring might well be the making of him, just as Wales’s manager Chris Coleman said when interviewed by Gair Rhydd back in February: “He isn’t that type of lad, he won’t let things get to him. “
“He is the most expensive player in the world, and one of the best, playing for the best team. He is a strong lad, and a strong character. He’s proved time and time again how good he is. He is an important part of both Real’s team and ours.”
“Because they have a bad result, all players get criticised. They’ll bounce back from it, as will Baley. He is too good a player not too.”
If Bale goes on to have a long and successful career in Madrid then those he cupped his ears to on Sunday night will always be able to say that they were there. They wouldn’t have been amongst those abusing him though, of course.