Gareth Bale has slipped right to the fringes under Zinedine Zidane. He was a substitute in Real Madrid's Champions League last-16 decider in Paris, and was again on the bench in the quarter-final first leg with Juventus in Turin (offering a decidedly indifferent reaction to THAT overhead kick by Cristiano Ronaldo). Over the past week, meanwhile, he has failed to even travel to Málaga, and been left out of the XI against Athletic Bilbao. None of this is simply chance.
AS understands that Zidane has grown increasingly disappointed by the passive attitude shown by Bale, who has never fully thrown himself into the collective dynamic of a dressing room that is united in its pledge to rescue the season with European glory in Kiev. (First, of course, Bayern Munich must be beaten in the semi-finals.)
Zidane finally lost patience with Bale in Juventus second leg
And Zidane's faith in Bale ran out once and for all in Real's second leg with Juve. He opted to hand the forward one last chance by starting him against the Italians, only for the Welshman to be guilty of an innocuous display as Los Blancos went into the break 2-0 down. Bale had just one shot on target (which was saved by Gigi Buffon, and was followed up by a backheel that flew wide), and lost possession six times...
When the team arrived back in the Bernabéu dressing room at half time, Cristiano sought out Bale and urged him to show more aggression; after all, the tie was now in the balance. But to the surprise of everyone watching on, the 28-year-old merely smiled. The Vecchia Signora were just one goal away from forcing extra time, and he appeared not to fully grasp the seriousness of the situation.
Having watched the scene unfold, Zidane immediately told Lucas Vázquez to get ready to come on for Bale at the start of the second half. Since then, he has been limited to a 20-minute cameo against Athletic. It's no coincidence.
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