The pain in Spain: what really happened to Gareth Bale at Real


The pain in Spain: what really happened to Gareth Bale at Real

Isolated and not on speaking terms with Zidane, the striker escaped the sour atmosphere to rejoin Spurs

John Percy

By the end, the only bond between Gareth Bale and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid was one of mutual contempt. The pair had always had a fractious relationship, but when Bale and Zidane could not even bring themselves to exchange a cursory “Good morning” at Real’s training complex in Valdebebas, it was clear to all parties that the Welshman’s time at the club was over.

It was about the same time that Tottenham Hotspur sensed an opportunity to bring Bale back to the Premier League. For nearly two years, the signing was a personal project for Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman and, having finally realised it last month, Bale is now in line to make his second “debut” for the club on Sunday against West Ham. For Bale, the move represents a liberation from the stifling atmosphere of Madrid, where his relationship with Zidane and sections of the Real fan base had grown toxic.

Bale was worn down by all the politics, the PR spin and hysterical headlines which accompanied his every move. They were repeated so often as to become cliched: he was more interested in playing golf than football, he had not bothered to learn the language, he was despised by many of his teammates. When he donated €500,000 to hospitals in Madrid, as the city first became gripped by the pandemic, it barely merited a mention and the supposed golf fixation became almost an in-joke, a point underlined by the “Wales, Golf, Madrid. In that order” flag with which he danced around the pitch when Wales secured their spot at Euro 2020...

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