A professional footballer’s life, at the very highest level, is like living in a gilded cage. The luxurious lifestyle that football affords players is often tempered by the reality of not being able to go about one’s business ‘as normal.’
To those supporters for whom it would take years to earn the same as a player earns in a week, that’s a small price to pay. And perhaps it’s that type of attitude that authors the way in which fans treat those that put on the shirt of their club each week.
There is an unwritten rule that exists whereby a player is the ‘property’ of the fans for want of a better term. That he can’t be allowed an opinion if it differs from their own, or a lifestyle that isn’t commensurate with what they expect.
Look at Neymar as a prime example. He has been one of Paris Saint-Germain’s best players over the last two years but the flaunting of his wealth and the way he conducts himself away from the pitch is clearly at odds with PSG’s support.
It’s almost as if he has the right to earn his money but not to spend it how he desires. That appears to apply to what he does during his private time as well. But the fact is the ultras have no hold over him and it’s preposterous to even think so. Does anyone truly believe that he’s bothered about the amount of column inches devoted to his partying either?
By the same token, Gareth Bale is once again the centre of attention in Madrid. After helping Wales to qualify for Euro 2020, his apparent joy at being photographed in front of a ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order’ flag has sent the majority of supporters over the edge.
Not to mention the Spanish media, particularly those that are close to the club such as MARCA. The criticism has been incessant.
When his name was announced as one of the substitutes against Real Sociedad, when the Basques arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu just over a week ago, the cacophony of boos and whistles that greeted his name were unprecedented.
Worse followed when he actually came on. The Welshman was subjected to unbelievable levels of abuse every time he touched the ball. God forbid that Bale should actually treat playing for Los Blancos for what it is, a job. Good days, bad days and all that. For those that have carried the team in their heart for years, however, that isn’t acceptable.
What’s conveniently forgotten is just what a major part Gareth Bale has played in Real Madrid’s success in the Ancelotti and Zidane eras.
His goals in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals in particular should live long in the memory. After all, without his intervention against Liverpool, there’s no guarantee Real would’ve gone on to take the trophy. And then there are all the match-winning contributions in the league, his partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
It’s clear that he’s never got on with Zinedine Zidane, and maybe we’ll never know the full extent of why that is, but the fall-out is largely to blame as to why Real’s supporters have this irrational hatred of the Welshman. Zizou remains a God in the Spanish capital and woe betide anyone that doesn’t toe the line willingly.
The coach’s words at the beginning of the season; “It would be better for everyone if he left,” are sure to have influenced even the most neutral of Madridistas, but surely even they can see that their club is better with Bale in it? He brings pace to the front line, goals, assists… In short, his skill set is everything you could want from a modern day forward.
He has stated on many occasions, through his agent Jonathan Barnett, that he has no desire to leave, yet it’s a foregone conclusion that this is only going to end in tears.
There are no winners when such a toxic situation exists and, whilst we’re not yet at the point of discussing a ‘hero to zero’ type fall from grace for Gareth Bale, there’s a very real possibility that it’s not too far away.