Gareth Bale put in another solid performance in Real Madrid’s 3-0 victory over APOEL in the Champions League, as the winger continues his return to form from injury last season. Playing a key role in all three goals, it was the kind of performance that would’ve given Bale a confidence boost after a slow start to the season. Instead, portions of the Madrid crowd booed him, as they have done several times since moving to the capital four years ago. So why, despite scoring nearly 70 goals in four injury-hit seasons, do the Bernabeu crowd still boo Bale? I mean, it’s not as if he is Neymar and openly touted a move to PSG or Kylian Mbappe who also chose the dollar at the French club. Are FIFA actually investigating? The AskFans study is an interesting read on the subject, however, back to Bale getting booed for pretty much nothing.
Against APOEL, Bale operated on the left-wing and was a constant threat, particularly his pin-point crosses throughout the game. One of the crosses assisted Ronaldo’s opener, driven low to the back post where the Portuguese lost his marker and converted. His cross led to the hand-ball and Madrid’s second goal via a Ronaldo penalty. He then played a part in the third, heading back across goal for Sergio Ramos’ sublime bicycle kick.
Yet, despite an encouraging performance, Bale was once again booed by sections of supporters.
Real Madrid teammate Casemiro leapt to the defence of Bale after the game,
“He wants to score goals and he’s fighting to always help Real Madrid.
“We try to protect the players we have, we are always defending our own. It shows that we are a family.”
High Praise, High Standards
In Casemiro’s quote, he recognises the immense pressure put on Madrid players by the fans. Even Ronaldo, who has broken nearly every Real Madrid record possible, has had his own trouble with fans. He too was booed when going through ‘poor’ form, by his astronomical standards anyway.
Ronaldo: “I’m not asking them to name streets after me, the only thing I ask is that they don’t boo me here.”
What is clear then, is that with the incredibly high standard of players and football played under Florentino Perez’s ‘Galactico’ vision, comes incredibly high expectation from the Madrid crowd who by this point have become accustomed to success season in, season out.
Goals and Marketability
Bale has the impressive stat of opening the scoring in La Liga for Madrid three seasons in a row. Despite this, he has not helped himself by having an overall slow start, just the one goal in six appearances so far this season. Despite three assists in that time, the poor return in what is primarily a goalscoring front three doesn’t help his case with the ruthless crowd.
Upon arrival, Bale was not the most marketable player despite his £90 million price tag. Being from Wales and not being able to speak much Spanish at all did not help endear himself to fans. Whereas when players such as Isco, Marco Asensio and Sergio Ramos came to prominence, they were received far more warmly than Bale. Perhaps it is understandable for a Spanish crowd to take to Spanish or home-grown players better than they would a Welshman.
Over the last few seasons, Bale has been constantly linked with Manchester United which may cause fans to question his loyalty, even though he has been seemingly the only one constantly stating that he is happy in the capital. In fact, when 40,000 fans were asked in summer if they were happy to let Bale go if Kylian Mbappe came in, 72% were happy with that scenario.
He is well suited to United, especially considering his history with at playing in a high level Premier League team during his time at Spurs. There is also the fact that he is well in his prime at 28, and that he has visibly bulked up massively in his time in Spain means he is even better suited to the physicality of the Premier League than when he left. With such mixed feelings towards an obviously talented player, perhaps Bale would be wise to swap Madrid for Manchester.
Bale’s quality when fully fit has never been in doubt, but it is difficult to reach a player’s best form when constantly hampered by injury. Especially in a Madrid team where even the best players have to prove themselves all over again when side-lined through injury. Bale’s stats during his time in Spain tell the story for themselves.
2016-17 – 9 goals 5 assists 27 games
2015/16 – 19 goals 15 assists 31 games
2014/15 – 17 goals 12 assists 48 games
2013/14 – 22 goals 19 assists 44 games
Yet to better his debut season at Madrid, perhaps some of the fan frustration is at his lack of development or not hitting his true potential which at one point was to be the natural successor to Ronaldo.