A LOOK AT LA LIGA
What's worse for a footballing superstar in his downtime - a game of golf or arranging an internationally renowned tennis tournament?
Both are the root of all evil according to the Spanish media and have been used as a club, or racquet, to beat Gareth Bale and Gerard Piqué with.
Bale is still suffering the aftermath of a throwaway comment when it was suggested that playing for Wales and playing golf were priorities ahead of playing for Real Madrid.
Piqué has suffered similar by making a success of the previously faltering Davis Cup competition.
There are far worse extracurricular activities footballers have got up to in their spare time, but let's not explore those in a family newspaper.
Bale's 'crime' was posing behind a flag that cheekily read "Wales, golf, Madrid... in that order" following his nation's qualification for the finals of Euro 2020. He didn't make the flag; he didn't produce the flag from his sock; he merely allowed himself to be photographed behind it with teammates in the celebrations.
One should remember that he's the one whose professionalism was questioned by Pedrag Mijatovic back in October when the former Real Madrid star summarised, "The first thing he thinks about is Wales, then golf and then after that, Real Madrid." He never actually said "... in that order."
Since then Bale has been the butt of countless jokes. When a shot has missed the target in training, colleagues have shouted 'fore' and it was suggested that he'd rather play golf than go on an 'all-nighter' with the other players.
So, it was payback when he saw the flag, got caught up in the emotion and smiled for the flashbulbs. On his return to Madrid I'm reliably told that it was the worst whistling for a home player ever heard when his name was read out by the stadium announcer.
It's not often a Barcelona player would have sympathy; however, Piqué can empathise. In tennis circles he's been lauded for the success of the Davis Cup which was won by Spain, but the football pages have questioned his commitment. If you measure commitment by tweets, then his mind was elsewhere, yet he was putting his body on the line in the successive victories over Leganés and Dortmund.
Bale reacted with an outstanding cameo performance against Real Sociedad and then almost won the Champions League game with a stunning stoppage time free-kick against PSG. Now Eden Hazard is injured, Bale's presence is vital to Real's ambitions, so I predict he'll be playing less golf and not heading to China or the Premier League in the winter.
Piqué is pivotal to Barcelona's grand plan and one day is destined to be president of the club. It's been reported that he's already involved in sponsorship negotiations so he's more than a player at an institution that boasts to be 'more than a club'.
Compare Bale and Piqué's misdemeanours to Ross Barkley dancing shirtless in a nightclub when he was supposed to be injured and there is perspective. Golf and tennis are OK, topless dancing in Dubai is a 'no-no'.