download All Football App

Zidane has given up on Bale but Mourinho would relish proving him wrong

  /  autty

Good player, good riddance, will be how most Real Madrid supporters send off Gareth Bale if he completes a move back to Tottenham this summer.

He will feel much the same way about a club where, whatever he achieved, it never seemed enough to earn the fans' affection.

At any other club in the world he would have gained immortality before the end of his first season.

But running half the length of the pitch with the ball at his feet to win the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona is long forgotten.

Six years on, his 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order' flag will be every bit as much his epitaph in Spain as the four European Cups he won.

That April night in 2014 when Bale flew past Barcelona's Marc Bartra to give Real Madrid a 2-1 victory sealed the first of 13 trophies at the club.

There would be other important goals. A month later he got Madrid's second in the 4-1 Champions League final defeat of Atletico Madrid, and he scored twice in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool in 2018.

But big goals in big games were never enough. In his last two seasons there were jeers whenever he touched the ball at the Santiago Bernabeu. Last November, the abuse took a surreal turn when he was even whistled while assisting a goal for Luka Modric.

'I hope this does not keep up the whole season,' said manager Zinedine Zidane after that match, the first since the flag incident.

The 'Wales, golf, Madrid' slogan had been coined by one of his critics on Spanish radio and adopted by Bale when humour seemed the best way to fight back.

He also tried to respond with anger. In February 2019 he scored the winner for Madrid in a 2-1 victory against Levante but refused to celebrate, pushing away a team-mate.

There was also an offensive gesture instead of a goal celebration after he scored against Atletico Madrid. The jeers from his own supporters had got to him.

The 'sleeve cut' gesture he was accused of using in the Atletico game is considered offensive in Spain but he escaped punishment and pundits joked that the only sanction he deserved was for not being able to execute it properly.

That joke highlighted another of his problems: the sense that he had not assimilated.

David Beckham won one La Liga title in Spain and was no more able to give interviews in Spanish than Bale, yet he charmed journalists and team-mates alike.

Beckham had Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo covering his back. Bale, while respected and never unpopular, had Thibaut Courtois revealing in an interview that his dressing-room nickname was 'The Golfer'.

Engaging with local media would have helped Bale's cause. One radio presenter referred to him this week as the club's most disappointing signing of the last decade — a ludicrous accusation to level at a player with so many medals.

And in December 2018 when Bale scored a hat-trick in a Club World Cup semi-final there was no praise, just an accusation that he saved himself only for big games.

The negative coverage and the growing animosity with the club's supporters fed off of each other and meant Zidane had it easy when he left Bale in the stands.

The relationship was irreparably damaged in 2018 when Bale believed his form had earned him a start in the Champions League final. Zidane took offence at Bale saying so publicly afterwards.

Zidane wanted Bale gone. He repeated that desire a year later, saying publicly he wanted him out 'sooner rather than later'. There was no coming back from that.

Bale will relish coming in to work for Jose Mourinho every morning instead of a forced buenos dias with Zidane. And he will welcome the warmth of Spurs supporters, after years of cold indifference turned to hostility in Madrid.