A LOOK AT LA LIGA
Yet again Gareth Bale has become an unwanted sideshow rather than a showstopper. Zinedine Zidane will be smiling wryly as he sees José Mourinho face familiar questions about the mysterious star.
The Welshman was supposed to return to the Premier League in a blaze of glory, rekindling the incredible natural talent that made him a 100-million-euro footballer and three-time Champions League winner. But Real Madrid's problem is now Tottenham's. You could translate previous Spanish quotes from Zidane and get the same responses from Mourinho in English.
In July 2019, following the Bayern Munich match, Zidane said: "Gareth didn't come on because he didn't want to." Fast forward to February 2021 and the Spurs boss was left explaining Bale's absence to the media at Goodison Park: "I wouldn't say an injury, not at all, [there were] some feelings he was not happy with."
At his best, winning European finals with overhead kicks, Bale is up there among the legendary. He was rightly compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Now he's likened to the unfortunate Darren Anderton who was nicknamed 'Sicknote'.
The issue with Messi and Ronaldo is getting them to sit out the odd game. The problem with Bale is getting him to play the odd game. At Real Madrid he started only two of the last 19 Liga games; at Tottenham he's started only two of 22 Premier League matches.
Often the FA Cup is a useful opportunity for game time. However, the day after he posted "Good session today" on Instagram, his manager was left explaining he preferred spending time with the club's sports scientist rather than his colleagues at Everton.
Posts on his Instagram are not willy-nilly, they cost $185,000 per message if you want to reach his followers. But he's in danger of losing followers as his presence as a footballer diminishes. Mourinho swerved the Bale dilemma, doesn't select him and is probably counting down the days until he sends him back to Madrid.
At Real he reported a twisted ankle, thigh strain and infection, as well as the refusal to go on as a sub. At Spurs the issues have been knee, calf, and a preference to have a scan rather than jump on the team bus to Merseyside.
It doesn't appear there's a scan of the body which can reveal what is going on in his head. We all have friends who have a list of ailments to get them out of work or gatherings. It appears he's just fallen out of love with the job.
In the summer he must return to Real Madrid with a year remaining on his reported 600,000-euro-per-week contract. The added issue is his non-EU status which further restricts his selection. It could be that he's paid off as a compromise. Then he can concentrate on his true sporting passion which appears to be golf.
But it isn't only his football that's hurting. I was surprised to discover that his golf handicap is close to four. Without his usual winter and spring on the Spanish courses, his game is really going to suffer.