2018/19 was meant to be Gareth Bale’s season in the limelight.
This summer, the Welshman was set to fill the boots of Turin-bound Cristiano Ronaldo after an unbelievable Champions League final performance.
So why is it that the winger is stropping with team-mates and not celebrating his goals?
When Julen Lopetegui took over at the beginning of the season, Bale was the manager’s number one.
Ronaldo’s number seven jersey had gone to Mariano – a back-up player – and there were no Galactico signings over the summer.
Bale was the big dog in Madrid.
The Bernabeu club got off to a solid start, they had ten points from four games and were just two points behind Barcelona.
And Bale appeared to be handling the pressure well.
He scored four goals and assisted a further three in the first six games of the season.
Then Madrid’s season took a turn.
After the good start to the season, the club from the Spanish capital took only one point from the following five league games.
Lopetegui was soon gone and the pressure was building on the post-Ronaldo Madrid squad.
Between September 15th and December 9th, Bale didn’t score a league goal or even make an assist.
That’s 651 minutes of La Liga action without a goal involvement for the former Spurs man.
This had the villagers of Madrid rounding up the pitch forks and it was Bale’s blood they were thirsty for.
Boos would ring around the Bernabeu when he was substituted – something which Bale has become used to since his 2013 move.
During his La Liga drought, it is worth remembering Bale scored a hat-trick in the Club World Cup semi-final, along with away goals at Roma and Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.
He finally got a goal on Spanish soil when he netted against Huesca in December.
It might have seemed like his season was about to get restarted, until the injury prone Bale was sidelined with a calf niggle.
In his absence, young Vinicius – signed from Flamengo in the summer – took the reins having been the man for the Copa del Rey before Bale’s injury.
Since the turn of the year, Bale has been restricted to a bit-part role off the bench.
The Brit has started just one game in La Liga since December.
One problem that the Welshman faces is he is looking very handy off the bench.
He has three goals in his last four La Liga substitute appearances, with Vinicius being the preferred starter.
The young Brazilian even stared in El Clasico ahead of Bale with Lucas Vasquez being a consistent starter on the other wing.
Bale, unsurprisingly, doesn’t appear to like his new role.
At the weekend, Bale came on for the home game against Levante and scored the winning penalty after some dubious VARing from the referee.
After slotting the penalty, you can see his team mates running to congratulate him.
Bale, with a stern face, just runs towards the halfway line and even pushed Lucas Vasquez away.
He also gestured towards the Atletico fans after scoring in the derby, something which could still land him in hot water.
Most would agree these are not the traits of a happy player.
Even some of the Real Madrid players have expressed issues with Bale.
Thibaut Courtois claimed he is known as the ‘golf guy’ in the dressing room due to his obsession with the sport.
In an interview with Marca, Marcelo recently said he doesn’t speak Spanish in the dressing room.
The defender said since the departure of Ronaldo and Kiko Casilla – ‘I have no-one by my side, I have Bale on the other side, but Bale doesn’t speak, he only speaks English.’
Hardly happy families…
It is also a problem which filters down to the fans, they are keen to see Bale speaking Spanish and consider his lack of effort (or attempt to avoid embarrassment) as a lack of passion for the club and country.
The 29-year-old is fighting for his space in the starting XI this season.
You would imagine Madrid will be bidding aggressively for the likes of Eden Hazard or Christian Eriksen so Bale’s life won’t get any easier.
The question is, does the winger have the patience to stay and fight?
Or might the club be running out of patience with the sulking Bale?
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