Wales, injuries, Madrid

Gareth Bale's divorce from Real Madrid has been a long, repetitive and, ultimately, ugly vicious cycle

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

Parasite or superhero? That's the debate dividing Wales and Spain right now. Back home Gareth Bale is rightly regarded as a national hero. In the country where he works, he's regarded as a 'work-shy' footballer who isn't justifying his incredible wages.

One columnist in the Spanish daily sports paper Marca triggered a war of words when he described Bale as a parasite; claiming "his nature led him to suck blood without giving anything in return."

I keep reading that this is the view of the Spanish press! To say the whole Spanish media thinks the same as the writer is like saying that Piers Morgan speaks for the whole of the United Kingdom.

The footballer responded by claiming the article was '"slanderous, derogatory and speculative journalism." Bale is right, the journalist, who is apparently a poet, used too much licence with his words.

The argument of the Wales football fans is based on the sensational performance of their captain when he scored two goals to take his country one huge step closer to the World Cup finals. That was Thursday night.

The following Tuesday, Wales experienced the version of Bale more recognised in Spain. He made a nine-minute cameo as he reported a groin injury.

Sadly, Real Madrid have seen the Tuesday version rather than the Thursday version this season. Head coach Carlo Ancelotti offered a clean slate and started him in the opening three Liga games of the season. Since then, he's appeared for just 77 minutes for his club.

Bale has missed matches for a multitude of ailments: knee, calf, coronavirus, back trouble, feeling unwell, a pre-Clásico niggle and now the groin injury picked up on international duty.

It's hard to argue that he's earned his reported €15 million salary and that he's not served Real Madrid with distinction since signing in 2013. He's been part of teams that have claimed fourteen majors, including four Champions League medals. On top form he's been phenomenal. He's the best British footballer ever, certainly the greatest to play abroad.

As we saw against Austria, he's one of the top five talents in the world when he's fully fit. The problem is that he's rarely fully fit! It appears that he's so highly tuned, the strings are susceptible to snapping. Quite often his hamstrings.

What doesn't make it easy is the durability and eagerness of the other Real Madrid veterans who have carried the team this season. The mainstays have been Benzema, Kroos, Modric and Nacho Fernandez, all older than Bale.

He'll return to Madrid damaged again and it's highly unlikely that the Welshman will feature ever again for Real. The divorce will be complete in the summer when he becomes a free agent. His motivation is to be match fit for the day the World Cup play-off is staged and then the finals in November if Wales make it.

It's unlikely that Wales will take on the reported €600,000 per week and Real Madrid will find a better use of the funds.