Real Madrid: Gareth Bale's relationship with the Bernabéu, what happens now?
Gareth Bale stepped out into a hostile atmosphere at the Santiago Bernabéu but answered his critics with the kind of performance Zidane and Madrid expect of him.
Gareth Bale was subjected to deafening whistles from sections of the home crowd at the Santiago Bernabéu last night – fans who, for various reasons, feel he has not shown true allegiance to the club. The noise from the 69,000-strong crowd registered 90 decibels when the Welsh forward received the ball during his brief appearance against Real Sociedad – of course not all were whistling, some were applauding him. The player took it all in his stride, blocking it out enough to answer his critics and offer the kind of performance which Zidane and Madrid expect of him.
How Madrid fans view Gareth Bale
Bale might have been given the whistling treatment even if he hadn’t been pictured grinning from ear to ear with his Wales team mates behind a national flag emblazoned with the words, ‘Wales, Golf, Madrid – In That Order’ last week. The phrase - Pedja Mijatovic’s angle on where Bale’s loyalties may or may not lie, has taken on a life of its own and has taken on legendary status. A throwaway comment made on Spanish radio programme El Larguero by Mijatovic, (who incidentally, was whistled as a player by Madrid fans and during his time as Director of Sport for Madrid) has become the motto that will be associated with Bale for the rest of his career. The whole flag business rattled madridistas - for them it's a lack of respect. They think for the high salary he takes home, Bale should be putting the club first. Other gripes include the amount of time he spends out injured. At least his own team mates have seen the funny side - judging by the images taken during Friday’s training session, it’s all been forgotten about and that is how the club prefers it to be – an issue which was fabricated in the media and snowballed, something which happened outside of the club and beyond their control.
Madrid's legendary players whistled by their own fans
Bale isn’t, by a long way, the first Real Madrid player to be whistled and jeered by his own fans at the Bernabéu – and he won’t be the last. Zidane, who has changed tack and now feels the best policy is to accept Bale for the way he is, suffered similar treatment – not very often, but he too was whistled during his playing days in Chamartín. As were Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas, Di María, Nicolas Anelka, Raúl, Guti, Isco… and Roberto Carlos, one of the greatest left-backs in the history of the game, who was so upset by it that he said he would never talk to the press ever again – only to relent a few weeks later.
None of them though were regularly targeted by Madrid fans and we’ll have to wait and see if the Bernabéu continues to whistle Bale in the three remaining home games this year. Maybe it’s something he will just have to get used to (if he isn't already), or perhaps the whistlers will get bored. Gareth is never going to win over his detractors but there is one way he can silence a dissatisfied Bernabéu – with a bit of that old Bale magic, a golazo or two, perhaps another overhead kick… As far as Madrid fans are concerned, he has from now until Wales are next in action in the final week of March to remind everyone of the player he is.