Life at Real Madrid through the eyes of Gareth Bale
On May 13th, Juventus arrived at the Bernabéu in traditional Italian fashion – the players donning a suave, ritzy, polished black and white three piece in a hunt to find the keys to Berlin – dressed to impress but out to spill blood (if needs must.)
Madrid arrived with their season well within the radius of breaking point, Carlo knew his execution was due, the team itself played through the season looking disorientated, prosaic and more like a toddler wrapping his arms around his Father’s leg on his first day of school rather than the free-spirited, radiant team we all saw the season previous; ultimately, it was hacer o romper (make or break).
A stern-looking Bale stepped off the team bus; phone in hand, headphones in – like the team, Bale’s season was filled with uncertainty and a feeling of triviality, on the pitch he’d often look unresponsive to the greater picture; in a somewhat rigid 4-3-3, you’d see him wandering to help build up play in lieu of finishing the attack, defenders understood how to invalidate his talents and the boss did little to aid the issue – it was patently clear that there was a factor of indignation.
Gareth’s second-season at Madrid felt like it was his first – as if his first season should’ve been his second and his second should’ve been his first, he was building relationships with teammates again – from prospering Brit-abroad to persecuted Brit-aborad; he’s been harassed, heckled, vilified, mauled and heck even had his car belted in.
And then add an distorted relationship with Madrid’s most lucrative star — playing for Real Madrid comes with a different package of pressure all together, they don’t just expect you to perform in between the white lines, you’re judged as a person, your personality must be of a certain measure, you face a ‘Secret Service’ examination before the jury reach a judgment – essentially, you are required to be a ‘Madridista’ in the most traditional sense.
Bale, conveniently, in the most traditional sense isn’t a ‘Madridista’, his persona is more indicative of a ‘boy-next-door’ figure than an nonconformist – he’s introvert, doesn’t speak the native language fluently, isn’t fully endeared by the faithful and as we all know footballing dressing rooms can be hostile places when they want to be, which only emphasises the fact that Bale must channel his inner leadership abilities – this isn’t a time to be passive nor an outcast.
Juventus first hand, watched the Welshman skew wide countless times, there were long-range efforts, a header from point blank range and a reflex shot which agonisingly zipped past the post – the picture was painted, the portrayal of a defeated man who didn’t hide, but fell face first to the man above – if you could translate the abstract picture to words, it’d probably be something along the lines of ‘So, amigo mio, forget it’.
In ninety-minutes Bale’s second-season was synopsised, football is defined by team results but not for the first time, the wrath of Madrid would be felt by Los Blancos’ number-eleven. When all was said and done, it was Bale who left the Bernebeu that night as the man on the peripheral side of things – the guy who failed to execute the perfect shot when his team had just the one hand on the edge of the cliff.
Far from a fair reflection.
Tying the strands together to make sense of Bale’s situation isn’t difficult; undoubtedly, Bale has the skill-set to write his name alongside the Madrid folklore- a vigorous left-foot, a defined footballing brain, a natural physique which allows him to broaden his horizon as well as all his other gifts.
He’s Perez’s very own investment, there’s an emotional connection between the two – some would say one side more profound than the other, in a season of disconnect he (for once), the president played the saving grace role; the blueprint of the Bale transfer was for him to take the throne when Cristiano (inevitably) gets bored of Madrid life and hops on a plane to wherever life may take him but reality would state that, such a plan is jeopardy of splitting.
With United one of the very many admirers and civil unrest between player and fan at Madrid, the upcoming season will go a long way to defying exactly what legacy Bale leaves behind.
There are very few parallels between the Bale of Wales and the Bale of Madrid – in his hometown, he’s the nation’s sweetheart; he’s vocal, the leader, the boy who was moulded on the streets of Cardiff, the Yin to Wales’ Yang.
In Madrid he’s away from the adulation and in territory of a different magnitude: it’s not mutual love, he’s questioned every game, his teammates respect him not laud his every touch. Contrasting origins.
So, throughout a career of so many highs and very few lows, this feels like it was the only possible culmination: a new manager, a new role, more responsibility, more power – have faith in a man who just a year ago, caught up with the destiny that so nearly eluded his club once more in Lisbon.