Isolated Bale draws Spain media scrutiny

REAL Madrid forward Gareth Bale was the focus of unwanted attention in the Spanish media.

REAL Madrid forward Gareth Bale was the focus of unwanted attention in the Spanish media yesterday after the 100-million euro (US$122.93 million) signing was left out of the team’s starting line-up for the third time in four games.

Bale began Real’s 3-1 win at Leganes on Wednesday on the bench, just as he had done against Real Sociedad and in its UEFA Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.

Coach Zinedine Zidane selected Bale to start against Real Betis on Sunday 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 Real’s goals.

“There is a problem with Bale,” Spanish newspaper AS reported yesterday.

“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 Real has 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.”

Bale 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 injury. He required surgery to treat ruptured ankle ligaments last season and later admitted he had paid the price for rushing back to action too soon.

His current campaign has been hampered by persistent muscle problems and although he has not had any recurring injuries since returning in December, he has not played more than 80 minutes in over a month.

Rather like last season, when Real swept to the Liga and UCL titles when Bale was mostly on the sidelines, his drop in influence has coincided with a resurgence in his team, which has won four games in a row in all competitions.

Zidane has refrained from criticizing 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,” the Frenchman 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.”