The schism between Zidane and Bale began against PSG
561 days later... and Gareth Bale has the opportunity to continue mending his relationship with Zinedine Zidane against the same club on Wednesday.
Real Madrid will face Paris Saint German on Wednesday, 561 days since their last encounter on March 6, 2018. That night, Los Blancos beat the hosts 2-1 in Paris to secure their place in the quarter final, winning 5-2 on aggregate, with Cristiano Ronaldo supplying three of the goals over the two legs.
That last-16 tie marked the emergence of the schism between Zinedine Zidane and Gareth Bale. On February 14, 2018, in the first leg against the Parisian club, Zidane left the Welshman on the bench. Bale had already begun to lose his starting place as a result of his repeated injuries. But the breakdown in the pair’s relationship really took hold that night against PSG in the Bernabéu. His consignment to the bench bothered Bale, and in turn, his resultant attitude irritated Zidane.
The Cardiff-born striker was captured on camera yawning on the bench. And later, with the score at 1-1, he was slow to take off his tracksuit when the French coach called on him to come on. At the end of the game, he ignored captain Sergio Ramos' call to go and applaud the fans for their support. Instead, he went straight to the dressing room with his eyes fixed on the floor – a snub he repeated in the second leg at Parc des Princes, where he was also a substitute.
From then it was evident that something had been broken between Zidane and Bale. With his gestures, Bale didn’t hide the disconnection, while the loss of the coach’s confidence in him was obvious.
Bale’s snub by Zidane in the Champions League
His bad situation was most evident in the Champions League. After being a substitute in the two games against PSG (during which he accumulated just 36 minutes), he didn’t feature in the first leg against Juve and was substituted at half time in the second leg. He was an unused sub in the first leg of the semi-final against Bayern, played just 18 minutes in the second leg, and started on the bench in the final against Liverpool.
Of course, his half-hour cameo against the Reds in Kiev will never be forgotten. Bale came on to score two goals, securing Madrid’s thirteenth European Cup title with a breath-taking bicycle kick that will go down as one of the greatest goals in the competition’s history.
Those two goals prompted a frustrated Bale to issue an ultimatum in a live interview after the game. “Obviously I need to be playing week in-week out. That hasn't happened this season… I have to sit down in the summer and discuss it with my agent and take it from there,” said the Welshman, leaving his departure that summer very much open. But soon after, it was Zidane and Ronaldo who left, clearing the path for Bale to have a fresh start and so he stayed.
However, he did not become the leader the club had expected following Ronaldo’s departure. And with the return of the French coach in March, Bale’s future at the Bernabéu looked very uncertain again. Zidane seemed to hammer the final nail in the coffin of the pair’s relationship with his ‘the-sooner-he-leaves-the-better’ remarks in July. But the well-documented mega-deal deal with a Chinese club fell through, leaving Bale amongst Zidane’s ranks for another season.
Bale’s chance at reconciliation with Zidane and Madrid fans
Bale survived another summer and now the tables have somehow turned in favour of the Welshman once again. The in-form striker has started three of the first four games of the season (he was suspended for the fourth game against Levante for a red card) and played 94% of the minutes he has been available, leaving his mark with two goals and one assist.
This Wednesday against PSG, Bale returns to action in the Champions League, a competition in which he has participated in 21 of 33 possible games under Zidane – 16 of which he has started and only six of which he has played the full 90 minutes. In Paris he will be back in the starting eleven, giving him an opportunity to continue mending his relationship with the coach and the fans.
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