Golfer Bale drives Wales to Euro 2020 - but Madrid unamused
MADRID – "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order," was the chant of the night in Cardiff as Gareth Bale inspired his country to Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday.
But his club Real Madrid - his employers who pay him a veritable king's ransom - are unlikely to see the funny side.
"Bale mocked Madrid," the sport paper AS wrote on Wednesday while Marca said: "This is Bale's greatest impertinence against Madrid. The relationship between the club and the player is more broken than ever."
Serious words in response to a comedy song from the stands but a delighted Bale posing with the slogan on a Welsh flag after full-time lifted the situation out of the banal.
It was sparked by former Real star Predrag Mijatovic's recent criticism of the winger, who has not played for his club in weeks.
"The first thing he thinks about is Wales, then golf and after that, Real Madrid," Mijatovic said.
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has little time for Bale and encouraged a transfer in the past close season. A move to China seemed possible until it wasn't and Bale remained in the Spanish capital instead.
There is the impression, from both sides, that he is a prisoner at the Santiago Bernabeu even if his luxurious jail is gold-plated.
Bale, 30, has done little to suggest otherwise though he insists he remains professional.
"I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales," Bale said ahead of their penultimate qualifier with Azerbaijan. "I've been with most of the older players since we were in the under-17s.
"It's like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. With Wales, I'm speaking my own language and feel more comfortable.
"But it doesn't change what I do on the pitch. I always give 100 per cent on the pitch wherever I am; that's what I always strive to do."
Bale joined Real in a mega-transfer from Spurs in 2013. He has won the Spanish league and cup, and four Champions Leagues - he even scored in two of the finals, including an iconic acrobatic volley in 2018 against Liverpool.
Even that hasn't been enough to endear him to fans or coach. He hasn't trained with his team-mates since early October but it was little surprise he was fit for Wales.
"We have always defended you, Gareth Bale," the MadridSports portal wrote on Twitter. "We have had patience with your thousand injuries, we have celebrated your goals and assists, we have defended your passion for golf and your limited Spanish.
"But enough. You are laughing at ... Madrid."
Bale will now prepare for the domestic match with Real Sociedad on Saturday and a glamour Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain Tuesday in an atmosphere resembling that of a declining, doomed marriage. Club and player cannot live together but nor are they yet able to part.
English record champions Manchester United are reportedly considering a January move for Bale - but that requires divorce terms to be agreed and with his substantial contract running to 2022, there is no guarantee of that.dpa