How did Spain react to Bale's Wales performance against Austria?
Wales' emblematic player has come under fire in Spain for his perceived slight to Real Madrid as his two goals put Wales one game away from Qatar.
Gareth Bale, for all his qualities when he is on the pitch, cuts a frustrating figure off it. Thursday night's special performance to drag his nation as close to a World Cup Finals as they have been in half a century shows he can still do it on the biggest stage.
While the performance has been lauded in the Britain, there has been a much different reaction in the nation where he plays his club football, Spain. For all Bale's plaudits, there is no doubt that the last three years of his time in Madrid have not been happy. In the last three years, Bale has made just 25 performances for Real Madrid, scoring 4 goals. This season, he has played just 270 minutes, the equivalent of three whole games.
Whenever Wales need him, their captain always puts in a performance. But when his club come calling, he is absent. A wedge has been driven between Bale and Real Madrid, one that is unlikely to be repaired by the time his contract runs out this summer.
How did Spain react to Bale's performance?
The headline for AS is a play on words, and sound, of Bale's name. In Spanish, 'OK,' is 'vale', though the pronunciation would sound like 'Bale'. There can be a couple of interpretations of the headline. Spanish football journalist Sid Lowe gave his thoughts on a good English translation, supposing it to mean either 'that's OK for him', to 'now he cares', to 'he's taking the p**s', depending on the force intended.
There is a widespread belief that Bale has not applied himself fully to Real Madrid. This has been especially clear in the wake of Real's defeat to Barcelona in Sunday's El Clasico, in which the type of performance on show in Cardiff would have been a big help to Ancelloti's side. Bale was ruled out with injury, but was fit enough to start Wales' game just four days later.
Asked to clarify why he was not part of the squad to face Barcelona, Bale said, "I don't need to. I don't need to tell anyone what was up."
"I don't need to give anyone anything to use against me. Everything is fine now, I have no issue."
Tomás Roncero, the boisterous presenter of football TV programme El Chiringuito penned an article after the game titled "Bale. Vete. Ya. In that order.", a reference to the famous flag held up by Bale after a Wales game back in 2019. 'Vete. Ya.' translates as 'Go. Now.' in English. The article continued attacking Bale for "stranding" Madrid in the Clasico, as well as dubbing him a "kind of braveheart for the Dragon nation," a slightly confused amalgamation of Scottish and Welsh tradition. Roncero is a big Real Madrid fan, and his sentiments are echoed in much of the fanbase.
Bale hit back at this style of criticism immediately after the game. Sky Sports asked him whether he had a message for his Spanish critics. He had been dubbed 'the Welsh parasite' by some in Spain in the pre-match build-up.
"No," he told Sky Sports. "I don't need to send a message, honestly. It's a waste of my time.
"It's disgusting, they should all be ashamed of themselves. I'm not fussed. End of."