Real Madrid: Toshack went in a little too hard on Bale
Gareth Bale may not be the world's greatest linguist but he has other virtues. Too much is being made of his Spanish, or lack thereof. His job is to play football.
It was surprising to hear John Toshack laying into Gareth Bale for his failure to grasp Spanish. Toshack has always defended Bale to the hilt but when asked about the recent negativity surrounding the Real Madrid forward, he replied: “You've been here six or seven years now and you don’t speak the language. That's an insult to the people you're working for”.
We have no idea how much Spanish Bale has managed to learn since he arrived in Madrid in September 2013. Since the players don’t give press conferences anymore, Bale has never had to go through the daunting experience of speaking in public in a language that isn’t his own. He did post a message in Spanish on Twitter which was enthusiastically received but clearly not written by him (no expat understands the subjunctive after just one year, unless you are Gary Lineker). A year later he gave his first interview in castellano to the club's TV channel, and did very well.
Tosh is right though that having some Spanish, the bare minimum, is better than none at all and if Bale loves life in Madrid so much that he doesn’t want to leave, he would love it ten times as much if he could speak the lingo.
To describe Bale’s inability to communicate in Spanish as an insult to Real Madrid is a bit harsh – especially from Tosh who was famously (and unfairly) misinterpreted when he was Madrid coach 20 years ago - and immediately sacked as a result. Bale is probably too ashamed to try out his Spanish in public for fear of putting his foot in it – like Toshack did in 1999, and Beckham (confusing the Spanish word for embarrassment with the one for being pregnant!) or Phil Neville enjoying some 'early morning light relief' on the beach; or the rest of us – we’ve all made mistakes, hilarious and great fun for the locals but also an essential part of the learning process.
Toshack was spot on though in saying that Bale should not be using his agent, Jonathan Barnett as his mouthpiece. Bale has been subjected to an incredible amount of flak, some justified, some very unfair but he has to come out and defend himself.
In short, too much is being made of Gareth Bale’s Spanish, or lack thereof. His job is to play football, not recite Cervantes. Out of all of the reasons why his place at Real Madrid is in question, his knowledge of Spanish is the least of them. He may not be an academic but he has other virtues. He is Wales captain and all-time top goal scorer. There is no player currently on the market with his characteristics (or James' for that matter) – and it’s unjust that some seem to have forgotten that he came off the bench to win the 2018 Champions League final for Real Madrid practically on his own – and in spite of his limited Spanish…