SportsBale's shadow is still long

Bale’s shadow is still long

Gareth Bale celebrates his team’s victory against Austria (2-1), this Thursday in Cardiff.MATTHEW CHILDS (Action Images via Reuters)

Gareth Bale and Real Madrid have been saying goodbye for four years and four years finally forced to live together. Increasingly becoming a shadow at the Bernabéu and an element of distortion, a kind of foreign body from the past that has crept into the present, the Welshman reappears time and time again to remember that he is still there and will remain there until his contract expires at the end of June.

His last five days are yet another test of life and noise, a perfect storm of medical casualties in Chamartín and goals in Cardiff topped off with a harsh attack on the media. Since August he has barely had a meeting with the whites, last Sunday he fell out of the Clásico due to some discomfort in his back (as reported by the club), 48 hours later he was already training like nothing with Wales, and this Thursday he signed up for both goals against Austria (2-1) and a performance full of energy that bring his country closer to the World Cup (he will face the winner of the Scotland-Ukraine postponed to June for a place). The icing was put on the next day with a devastating statement in which he accused a certain press of “slanderous and derogatory journalism” whose pressure takes some athletes “to the limit”.

Some time ago in the white universe it was considered amortized sportingly and it is difficult to see it as a reliable option, but this Resurrection football in the heat of the homeland occurs at a sensitive moment in Madrid, just after the merengue striker returned to stay in minor cloths without Benzema, at the expense of Ancelotti’s failed inventions and shaken by Barcelona. On Monday he should be back in Valdebebas, although nobody knows how many more minutes he has left dressed in white in a field.

Without a market after four seasons of free fall in club football with a salary of around 15 million net, the most expensive signing at the time in the history of Madrid (101 million) returned this summer to the sports city after his unsatisfactory loan at Tottenham. Since then, he has played more with Wales (322 minutes) than with Madrid (270), and with a stark difference in weight and performance: in the last four games with his national team he has scored as many goals (five) as in the previous 35 games with the whites. While with his country he completes matches without more difficulty than the inevitable cramps, as against Austria, in his teams that is an exception. At Madrid he hasn’t done it since January 2019, at Getafe, and at Spurs he only recorded one entire duel last year, against the modest Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup.

“He enjoys here, he enjoys playing for his country,” said his compatriot Aaron Ramsey after finishing off Austria with a very challenging, vindictive Bale, as if he felt undervalued at the Bernabéu. “I don’t need to send messages to anyone, it would be a waste of time. They should feel ashamed, it’s unpleasant”, said the left-hander with spite in reference to the Spanish press. A criticism that expanded this Friday with a very strong statement on networks. “I have witnessed the toll the media can have on people’s physical and mental health. Instead of pitying the athletes when they hurt, they tear them to shreds, “he assured, annoyed at having been described as a” parasite “.

Meanwhile, Madrid tries to avoid as much noise as possible and let time pass until the contract dies of natural causes, since they were not able to separate their paths ahead of time. Ancelotti, who in January had a hard time explaining one of his six casualties -“he is not injured, but he is not well”-, juggles publicly to defend the player’s “commitment” and, at the same time, not give him a minute in the Bernabéu (his last match at the Castellana was in February 2020). His agent called this campaign “disgusting” to Madrid fans for the treatment of his client. Bale was part of Carletto’s initial bet, just like Hazard, and after a long winter he recruited him again at Vila-Real, before visiting PSG, in another absence of Benzema. Of all the substitutes for the Frenchman, none has shot more times on goal in a clash than him (three), but his figure was lost again.

This is how he has been since he threatened to leave in 2018 as soon as he won the Champions League with a Chilean against Liverpool, another final goal for his collection. He stayed, the leadership designated him as Cristiano’s successor, bet he didn’t turn out, and since then everything has been a long goodbye that has never materialized. That first course without CR ended up being sentenced by Solari and with Zidane claiming his departure “imminent for the good of all”. He stayed and the Frenchman gave him a ball at the beginning of the new course until he returned him to bullpens and the Welshman ended the year in Valdebebas, in the post-confinement period.

Then a way out was found for him, on loan at Tottenham, and it was believed that this would be the end. But neither. At Spurs he did not convince and returned. This campaign, Ancelotti placed him in his initial plan and he barely lasted three games. He was injured as soon as he stepped on the Bernabéu, he recovered in time to leave for Wales in November and came back injured. A mishap that later chained with others. He now has three months to prepare for the decisive World Cup qualifying match. In June, yes, he will leave Valdebebas. He is 32 years old and no one knows what will happen to him afterwards.

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