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Gareth Bale vs the world: How (almost) everyone has let the Real Madrid ace down

COMMENT: Dear oh dear. Real Madrid and Gareth Bale. His teammates. His agent. With friends like these, who needs boo-boys...?

There's no coming back from this, surely? Not from his agent branding Real's most passionate fans. The ones whom invest a small fortune to follow these multi-millionaires home and away. Not from declaring them a "disgrace". Not from insisting they "should be ashamed of themselves".

"Frankly, they should be ashamed of themselves," Jonathan Barnett said of the home support whistling Bale during Saturday's defeat to Barcelona. "Gareth deserves the greatest of respect. The way Real fans have treated him is nothing short of a disgrace.

"He is one of the best players in the world and the supporters should be hugely grateful to him."

You've never heard anyone from Karim Benzema's camp say similar. If Barnett reckons his client has been treated poorly by the Madridista support, he'd do well to consider the season upon season of abuse Bale's French teammate has copped - and without complaint.

This has to be more than a heated off the cuff response. Barnett knew what he'd say would make news in Spain. He knew it'd create problems for his client. No agent. Particularly one at the level Barnett works at. Would go into such a meltdown without an ulterior motive. He's made Dimitri Seluk look positively demur.

But he has dropped Bale right in it. And it doesn't require any great insight to know how the home support will take to the Welshman tonight. That is, if Santiago Solari chooses to start him against Champions League opponents Ajax.

But the good money says the coach will. And that's the great paradox of the entire Bale situation. Targeted by fans. Lambasted by media. Even resented by teammates. Yet Solari. His staff. Right up to president Florentino Perez. They all stand by Bale. For all the sniping thrown at the player from both outside and within the four walls of the locker room, the club recognises he is the most valuable player on their books. Even more valuable than Sergio Ramos. And to be fair, some of his teammates, though not all, accept as much.

"If we want to aspire to the Champions League we need Gaz," declared Dani Carvajal in the mixed zone on Saturday night. "In everything, he is key."

In Kiev last year. Just as in Lisbon four years previous. Bale transformed a Champions League final in Real's favour. On neither occasion was he officially recognised, but those inside the club. Particularly those inside the boardroom. They know without the Welshman's intervention those crowns of 2014 and 2018 would've passed them by. For all the injuries. For all the complaints from teammates. No-one dares question Bale's big match mentality.

Solari, after hooking Bale on Saturday, was asked directly on the Bernabeu pitch: "Has Bale failed you?"

"I do not like to speak in those terms," replied the Argentine. "Bale has done a lot of things for this club, he deserves a respect," before adding, tellingly, "but the public is sovereign". Are you watching Barnett?

Bale didn't need that from Barnett. He really didn't. Not after the reaction to Lucas Vazquez's attempts to celebrate his goal at Levante were pulled apart from every angle. Not when leaks from the dressing room have him being called 'Martian' by teammates. And not when both Thibaut Courtois and Marcelo mock his unwillingness to mix with others. Courtois' decision to dub Bale 'the golfer' used mercilessly by pundit Josep Pedrerol in the aftermath of that win at Levante.

But that's not to say Bale is innocent in all this. The lack of Spanish has been pored over. Though there's plenty of blame to share for this one.

Yes, six years without any real attempts to learn the local lingo is bordering on insulting. But what of management? Why didn't they insist on Bale sticking to his language lessons? How often do we hear from managers in England, right through the divisions, insisting all players speak the local language? And that's even a demand coming from foreign coaches.

And if this isn't part of the culture at Real. Why couldn't Barnett have gone over Bale's head and suggested to Florentino that management insist he stick to his lessons? This isn't just about being able to say more than 'hola' to Marcelo next to him in the locker room.

This is about embracing the club culture. The Spanish culture. To grow into a leader. After six years, as Barnett states, surely Florentino and his directors are right to have expected Bale to have had a bigger influence on his teammates by now? To grow and develop into a genuine locker room leader. But how could he with no bloody Spanish?

But this goes deeper. It is also about Bale being able to interact with the support. To allow himself to be truly embraced by the Madridista. Need to know why there remains no connection? Even after six years? You have your answer, Jon.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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