Gareth Bale's situation at Real Madrid isn't good. At Butarque, for the Liga game against Leganés, Zinedine Zidane once again left him on the bench, as he did recently against Real Sociedad and, on the biggest night of the season so far for Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain. Three times on the bench in the last four games. The fact Cristiano Ronaldo was rested for the Leganés game didn't affect the French coach's decision, preferring to play Lucas Vázquez on the right (he had played the full 90 in the previous game, against Real Betis), who has a better connection with the rest of the team right now than Bale. Zidane was asked whether Bale being on the bench against Leganés was to protect him physically and he replied: "It's a little bit of everything. I'm happy with Gareth. You need to take it step by step with him. What we want is little by little for him to get back to his best. We'll see with the upcoming games how we're going to manage him".
Bale's attitude isn't helping...
Whether it's part of a medical plan (he's not shown any signs of having physical issues against Betis, where he played 73 minutes, or Leganés after coming on in the second half), or for technical reasons, what can't be disputed is that Bale hasn't played a whole game since he came back from injury (the equivalent of half an entire league season). He's gone from being a certain starter to dispensable for Zidane. And his attitude isn't helping either. The Welshman is well aware of the change in his status and his body language in recent games reflects all too well his unsettled mind. Against PSG his disappointment was obvious. Firstly, he was seen yawning on the bench. Then, he was deliberately slow when taking off his tracksuit to warm up. And finally, he ignored Sergio Ramos' call at the end of the game to thank the Bernabéu faithful for their support. Looking at the pitch, he trudged off, head down. Zidane started him in the next game, against Betis, but took him off after 73 minutes when he failed to get stuck into the game: in his time on the pitch, he didn't win one ball back, successfully dribbled just once and was unlucky with his two shots from inside the box (Antonio Adán saving well both times). "He played his game", was how Zidane summed up the Cardiff man's performance. And then in Butarque he took the liberty of strolling off to the dressing room while the game was in play.
Bale is going through his most critical moment at the Bernabéu since he signed for Real Madrid in 2013 for 101 million euros (Florentino Pérez made him the most expensive player of all time at that moment). This season, Bale has only played 35.5% of the minutes available to him (1,342 of 3,780). A second string kind of participation, although when he has played his statistics have been good: nine goals and six assists. However, Zizou, for technical, tactical or medical reasons, hasn't been able to trust him as he did in previous seasons. The breaking point was 26 September, when he suffered a muscle strain against Borussia Dortmund and since then has had relapses, ambiguous medical opinions and difficulty getting back into the groove.
Vázquez, Asensio outperforming Bale
Meanwhile, Vázquez and Marco Asensio are demanding their place in the side, on the basis of their performances. Both are displaying a physical and footballing level above the team's average and Bale can't compete. What's more, Zidane, looking to use four midfielders, sees the bbC as in no way necessary to the team's success. Set against this backdrop, and 13 days before the Champions League second leg against PSG, everything points to Bale starting on the bench in Paris, and with his very future at Real Madrid up in the air.