Does Gareth Bale need to move from Real Madrid for the sake of Wales?
Gareth Ceidiog Hughes
Real Madrid has the worst fans in the world.
The Madridistas have treated Gareth Bale utterly appallingly as has the club’s manager Zinedine Zidane.
Therefore, it is perfectly understandable that Bale would want to give them a figurative kick in the shins.
But in doing so, could he inadvertently undermine the Wales national team?
According to Diario AS, the 31-year-old Welsh superstar looks set to exact a £60 million revenge on Real. Zidane has been trying to offload Bale for some time and has been sticking him on the bench in an effort to try to force him out. But if the reports are true it looks like he has given up on doing so and will try to offload other players during the transfer window instead.
James Rodriguez, for example, could be sold at a cut-price. The 29-year-old Colombian cost Real £63m back in 2014, but like Bale has been a peripheral figure under Zidane.
The upshot is for the next couple of years Bale looks set to become the best-paid substitute in the world.
If the reports are true, he is increasingly likely to see out his contract until 2022. He reportedly earns up to £600,000 a week before tax. This leaves him with around £350,000 net earnings a week. Not bad money if you can get it.
It is unlikely that Bale would receive those wages anywhere else. There are other clubs with an interest in signing him. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have been mooted as possible destinations. But it doesn’t look like any of them will make an offer that comes close to Bale’s current salary.
His agent, Jonathan Barnett, told BBC Sport: “Gareth is fine. He has two years left on his contract,”
“He likes living in Madrid and he is going nowhere.
“He is still as good as anyone else in the team. It’s up to [Real Madrid manager] Zinedine Zidane.”
I don’t blame Bale for wanting to thumb his nose at Zidane and the Madridistas. In his position I’m sure a lot of people would be sorely tempted to take them for every penny. They have not treated him well despite him being the catalyst of a golden age at the club.
At any other club in the world, he would be revered. He has won four Champion’s League titles, and that’s just for starters. He scored crucial goals in two of the finals. The overhead kick against Liverpool was probably the best goal ever scored in a Champion’s League final.
His record compares very favourably to Zinedine Zidane’s time as a player at Real Madrid. In a similar timeframe, he scored twice as many goals, got a similar number of assists and won a hell of a lot more trophies. Yet Zidane is held in high esteem, and Bale is not. Instead he is treated with contempt. It is extraordinarily unfair.
So, it is understandable that he wants to receive the money that Real Madrid is contractually obligated to pay.
But there are other factors to consider. Football careers are short. Realistically he old has a few years left playing at the top level. Does he really want to waste those years warming the bench at the Santiago Bernabéu? It is a decision that he could well come to regret.
It’s not as if he can’t afford to take a pay cut either. Though his wages would undoubtedly be lower at another club, he could still command a not insubstantial packet. His wages would go from astronomical to merely huge.
There is also the matter of Wales. If Bale does not play regularly during the season it is less likely that he will be on top form when he plays for his country.
He was crucial to Wales’ stunning performances at Euro 2016. When the Euros finally come around again in 2021, we could really do with some of his magic.
There is no doubting his commitment to Wales and his love of playing for the national team. But his actions, though perfectly understandable, could have a negative knock-on effect. It would probably be better for him to move on for his own wellbeing too. No doubt he has a strong mentality. But I can’t imagine the impact of being in that viper pit is an altogether positive one.
The difference between the reverence in which he’s held in Wales and the derision he received in Spain is striking. Whatever he does, that won’t change. Whatever Bale chooses to do, the people of Wales will support him.
My hope is what he chooses to do gives him the best possible chance of creating more wonderful memories in the red of Wales. My fear is that it won’t happen.