Former Real Madrid and Wales coach John Toshack said this week that he thinks the world’s biggest club is not getting the best out of Gareth Bale because coach Carlo Ancelotti is playing him out of position. His countryman, who has come under fire from the club’s fans and local media for his recent performances, has scored 17 goals in 48 appearances for the club this season, and just three in his last 19 games.
In an interview, Toshack noted that the world's most expensive player is a lot better than his performances this season, adding: "With Bale, everything is strange. I don't see him happy. It's true that playing for Real Madrid can be imposing, but it shouldn't be his case after two years.” He continued: "I see strange things, gestures with Cristiano Ronaldo, looks. Injuries have also cut his rhythm. But I see him playing and it doesn't look like him. I see him suffer. He is not galloping like he did before with the 50-meter runs or more, just as he did in the Copa del Rey [Spanish King’s Cup] final last year. He no longer does that.''
Toshack, who led Real Madrid from July 1989 to November 1990 and returned for a nine-month stint in 1999, noted how, “At Tottenham he played at the center of attack, with space. He would come and go as he would please,” adding that with Real, “There's something that doesn't add up.”
Indeed, but let’s take a stab at it, anyways, shall we?
By any measure, Gareth Bale had a great debut season for Real. In 44 appearances, the world’s most expensive player scored 22 goals and added 16 assists in a season in which he played mostly on the right side of a three-man forward line that also included Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. His most memorable contributions were the winning goals in both the King’s Cup and UEFA Champions League finals.
During the current season, Bale had a strong first half, as did Real, as his team went on a record-breaking 22-game win streak in the Spanish league that ended with a 2-1 defeat at Valencia on Jan 4. Following that match, Bale was criticized for forfeiting the points by going for goal himself during a breakaway situation instead of passing to the wide-open Benzema, who would have had a tap-in. The next weekend, the Welshman opted again not to pass to the open Ronaldo on two different occasions and go for goal himself though the team would still beat Espanyol, 3-0, at home.
After these three incidents, Real’s fans seemed to turn on him.
Since, he has become something of a scapegoat: every time Real has put in a poor or indifferent performance, Bale’s car seems to be attacked by angry Real fans. The culmination of their collective resentment came to a head during the 1-1 UCL semifinal draw against Juventus at the Bernabeu on May 13, which saw the Italian club qualify with a 3-2 aggregate win: no less than seven of the game’s few chances fell Bale’s way, and he missed each and every one of them. The fans reacted by booing him.
It will come as no surprise to some, particularly former Tottenham coach Harry Redknapp, who has long questioned Bale’s mental strength, that the Welshman’s stats have fallen off a cliff since Real’s fans turned on him in early January. In fact, his output has been progressively less as the season dragged on. You’d think the fans might’ve realized this and maybe changed their tactic? After all, not everyone is made of Ronaldo-like titanium.
It’s been sad to see a player with so much talent, speed and power become so ineffective, and as Toshack claims, unhappy. It’s one thing to stick out a tough situation for the sake of sticking out a tough situation, but this kid has already shown this season that he can’t handle the kind of pressure heaped on him by Real’s insatiable fanaticos. While the likes of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo are made of sterner stuff, Bale has shown that he needs a more encouraging environment in order to prosper, which is why Off The Post thinks he should return to England, or risk stalling his career.
Earlier this week, Bale’s loudmouth agent, Jonathan Barnett, held crunch talks with the Real hierarchy to see if he should stick it out. Predictably, no clear indication of the club’s plans for him emerged, but this is likely because Ancelotti -- if reports are to be believed -- has no future at Real beyond the end of the current season.
Neither, perhaps, should Bale.