Quality Sports Images / Getty Images
Barcelona put Real Madrid in the sword Wednesday night in a 3-0 win at Santiago Bernabeu to qualify for the final of the Copa del Rey, 4-1 overall.
It was a humiliating defeat for the Blancos at home. Gareth Bale was replaced in the second half, but did not affect the match. The Welsh has presented only one notable result, just minutes from Barcelona's defense. He made a decisive pass in the defense. The miss drew shouts of derision.
When the referee was ringing full time, Bale was heading towards the tunnel. As he left the field, alone and neglecting to shake hands with any victorious Barcelona player, he looked like a man who lives in his own world.
Basel has gone through a difficult time. It is hammered by the Spanish sports media. He is not liked by his own fans, and the lack of solidarity of his teammates was noticeable. Instead of being supported by them, he is despised.
In an interview with the Belgian newspaper HLN In February (h / t Sport), Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois explained in detail how Bale had organized a solidarity dinner because he had to be in bed at 11 pm. He added that Bale's nickname in the locker room was "The Golfer" because he prefers to flee to Britain to indulge in his passion for the sport rather than in Spain.
The failure of Bale's assimilation in Spain, after moving to Madrid in 2013, is a stick with which he is beaten. One of Bale's other teammates, Marcelo, sitting next to him in the locker room, says that Bale speaks only in English and that he communicates with him through "gestures".
"He's a bit like a Martian, like a stranger who has landed in space," said Alfredo Relano, editor of Diario AS. "He's a lonely guy and a little cold, he has his entourage [from the UK] but he does not have many friends in the team. He's been friendly with Luka Modric since their time together at [Tottenham Hotspur]but few others. "
On Sunday, Bale scored Real Madrid's winning goal against Levante in La Liga. He appeared in a foul mood, again after entering the scrum as a substitute in the second half. He has only started two of Real Madrid's last nine matches since returning from injury last January. As he moved away from the penalty spot, his teammate Lucas Vazquez tried to take him into his arms. Bale shrugged angrily. It was an ugly gesture.
Denis Doyle / Getty Images
"The incident at Basel was clearly the expression of a misfortune that had accumulated with him and Real Madrid," said John Carlin, author of the book on the fly on Real Madrid. White angels. "We have known for a long time that it is not installed in the locker room of Real Madrid.Bale has never managed to win the love of the masses of Real Madrid, and this love has been systematically eroded from season to season, it has reached its peak with this incident against Levante, which will have serious consequences ".
There was a time when Bale was "untouchable", part of the formidable trident of attack of Real Madrid, the "BBC" (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano). These days are no longer after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus last summer. Karim Benzema remains, but Bale has lost his place as an undisputed starter largely due to recurring injuries.
He was dismissed 23 times during his career at Real Madrid because of physical problems. There is also a perception that he lacks appetite for field work, a popular trait in a Bernabeu stadium whose fame was built on the fighting qualities of the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano.
"Bale lost his place in favor of Lucas Vazquez … who works a lot and Vinicius Junior left, who excelled under Santiago Solari," Relano said. "Bale is a brilliant player, he scores fantastic goals, but because of his injuries he has no continuity, so it does not surprise me that he lost his place in the starting lineup. Zinedine Zidane has more confidence in him.The same reasons: for a coach, it's a little confusing player.He can do great things but [fears] injury, he restrains himself. It's a problem in the end. "
Denis Doyle / Getty Images
Bale lost his place in the starting lineup of Zidane because Zidane preferred to add a fourth midfielder in a 4-4-2 to better control the matches. Isco was mainly the beneficiary, but Marco Asensio and Vazquez were also called. The team worked better without Bale. As a legend of the club and in the middle of an impressive accumulation of three consecutive titles in the UEFA Champions League, Zidane was entitled to pass the call – even though Bale was there. one of the favorites of the presidential and the most expensive signature of the club's history.
Dropping Bale was something that Carlo Ancelotti, for example, was unable to do. Ancelotti referred to an interview with Il Napolista (h / t Marca) The trouble he had with the club's president, Florentino Perez, when he replaced Bale in a league match against Valencia in 2015.
Ancelotti was furious that Bale spoiled a goal chance by going alone instead of going to Benzema, who was in a better position to score. Real Madrid lost 2-1. Withdrawal Basel attracted the wrath of Perez, which eventually led to the dismissal of Ancelotti. Zidane, however, had more weight than the Italian.
"Zidane convinced Florentino that it was best to leave Bale in the dugout for the most important matches," said Diego Torres, a journalist with El Pais. "Thanks to the titles he won and his charisma, his idol aura at Real Madrid, Zidane was able to overthrow the president who still had a favorable view of Basel. Notice that due to recent incidents, especially following the attacks in Basel, incident in the match against Levante last weekend, Bale lost all the confidence that the president gave him. He is no longer a protected player, a guaranteed starter. "
This was supposed to be the breakout season of Basel. With the departure of Ronaldo, who left because of an icy relationship with Perez, Bale was the big bet of the president. The bet failed. Although his striking partner, Benzema, has grown in stature this season, Bale's status has diminished. He was overshadowed by 18-year-old Vinicius Junior, and the uncapped Brazilian is a revelation since he was lucky enough to do so thanks to Solari.
"Vinicius is popular because every time he recovers the ball, he attacks the defenses," Relano said. "It still has not finished properly, but it is destabilizing the opposition.Today, football is more like handball.The teams go from one side to the other. There is no space, Vinicius breaks this dynamic with its speed and energy, it's a novelty, a breath of fresh air, and football is a show for him. is a very appreciated player of Real Madrid fans. "
Soccrates Images / Getty Images
Vinicius has a sad conversion rate. He has shot 75 times this season for Real Madrid but has scored only three times. Real Madrid fans, however, released him. In Wednesday's Clasico against Barcelona, he missed two chances at the end of the first half in the span of a minute. After the second, he turned to Real Madrid fans in the north of the stadium and raised his arms in the air, pushing them. The stadium responded with visceral songs. He has them in the palm of his hand. This makes Bale's isolation more pronounced.
Bale is not the first British player to have trouble adapting to abroad. Michael Owen, for example, fled the Bernabeu after one season. He could never settle in Spain. David Beckham, however, was a favorite of Real Madrid supporters during a troubled period in the club's history. He managed to win only one major trophy (the Liga title), in his fourth and final season at the club. Like Bale, he did not speak Spanish fluently, but that did not stop Beckham from seducing the Spaniards with his charm.
"Bale is not trying to project a positive image as David Beckham did," Carlin explains. "Beckham has done his best to make small public relations out of the box by which he has defeated the press and the fans, and Bale really does not care.
"Shortly after arriving in Spain, Beckham went to see people from Madrid's two major sports newspapers, Diario AS and Marca. He wanted to chat with the secretaries and the maids. Of course, journalists have noticed and mentioned in articles about him.
"I remember that when I wrote my book about Real Madrid, I was traveling with the team and we were coming back from a match at maybe three or four in the morning. Always a crowd of Real Madrid fans are waiting at the airport Barajas.The only one who always stopped to take photos and autographs was Beckham.He was attentive to this side of things that Bale "It's obviously not."
The agent of Basel, Jonathan Barnett, likes to fight for Basel. Once, he dismissed Bale's former teammate, Ronaldo, as a "underwear salesman". On another occasion, Barnett said Bale's teammates at Real Madrid were not passing the ball to him.
"Jonathan Barnett does not have a good reputation here in Spain," Relano said. "He is known because he sows discord and says things to annoy others."
according to El Mundo On Tuesday, Barnett is convinced that Bale continues with Real Madrid as he tries to overthrow Jorge Mendes in Spain as the country's leading agent. Barnett was ranked as the second largest agent in all sports by Forbes magazine in September, and his firm, Stellar Group, has made inroads in the Atletico Madrid and Valencia youth academies. On Thursday, it was announced that he had added the jewel of the crown of Atletico Madrid Saul Niguez to his books. Bale being Barnett 's business card in Spain, it is in the interest of the agent to keep him at Real Madrid, with which the Welsh signed a contract until 2022.
Etsuo Hara / Getty Images
"Jonathan Barnett is a very good representative for Basel," Torres said. "He was able to influence the decisions of the club, he convinced the president that his player was a fantastic player, the agents are like car salesmen, and Jonathan Barnett has convinced people that the product he is selling is it is very high quality and deserves a very high price on the market and at Real Madrid.It does a great job for Bale. "
Torres, however, thinks that Bale will be sold this summer. Relano is uncertain because of the vagaries of the transfer market. It depends on who is available to buy. Real Madrid's plans on Eden Hazard, for example, could be negated if the Chelsea transfer ban is upheld. There are other unknowns. Bale could dig. If (and that's a big one if) Bale was to be the catalyst of another UEFA Champions League success, his stock would rise again, as he had done after his impressive bike ride against Liverpool in the final of last season.
"Real Madrid has been trying to sell Bale in the summer of 2017, while he wanted to buy Kylian Mbappe, but Mbappe did not come here because Bale, Benzema and Cristiano were in front of him," said Relano. "Jose Mourinho wanted Basel for Manchester United at the time, but Bale did not want to leave, so the contract for Mbappe failed, and Bale could be sold, but that depends on how the season ends. from one day to the next, the game is fluid, which is certain that the Bernabeus have no affection for Basel. "
Bale could have the opportunity to change his mind if he had a decisive impact on Real Madrid's La Liga against Barcelona, who returned to Madrid on Saturday. Revenge will be in the minds of Madrilenians, whose chances in the race for the title of champions only hold by a thread. They drag Barca by nine points, and a winning goal from Basel will help to redeem his reputation after a difficult week.
Follow Richard on Twitter: @Richard_Fitz