Monday, December 11

Gareth Bale heavily booed by Real Madrid fans as he returns after 654-day wait

Gareth Bale has been brought in from the cold at Real Madrid by making his first appearance at the club’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium since February 2020 – but was audibly booed by sections of the club’s fans.

The Welshman had not featured at the stadium since the Champions League Round of 16 clash against Manchester City two seasons ago, when he made a 15-minute cameo appearance as a substitute. His appearance from the bench in Saturday night’s home clash against Getafe was his first outing in the stadium for 654 days – coming on as a replacement for Karim Benzema, with significant sections of the home fans jeering him while others applauded.

Of course, there is the sizable caveat to this that the Covid pandemic and subsequent restructuring of Madrid’s home stadium saw them go over a season without playing at their natural home – playing the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign and the entirety of the following season as the Alfredo di Stefano stadium, usually the home of their reserve Castilla side.

Nevertheless, Bale’s fall from prominence at Real Madrid in that timeframe has been notable and he had not featured at the club’s home stadium for the opening eight months of this campaign – when Los Blancos returned. He has suffered multiple fitness setbacks along the way, but he has become a peripheral player at the club. Last week, Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett confirmed the Welshman would be leaving Real Madrid at the end of the season.

Bale has recently hit out at Spanish media outlet Marca as being “disgusting” for comparing him to a parasite over claims he is sucking money out of the Spanish giants. Bale concluded a rant against the reports by stating: “We all know who the real parasite is!” The forward had faced fresh criticism from the Madrid media after his starring role for Wales in their playoff win over Austria last month.

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The Welshman had appeared to be enjoying a new lease of life in the Spanish capital following the return of boss Carlo Ancelotti this summer. The Italian had been in the dugout whenever Bale signed for Los Blancos from Tottenham in the summer of 2013 and the forward’s best form at the club came under the boss. Yet Bale suffered fresh injury heartbreak with a hamstring pull seeing him miss months of the campaign while various fitness setbacks since have delayed his return to action.

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Bale had featured just three minutes for his club since August: two of which were brief cameo substitute appearances against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the Champions League. By contrast, the 32-year-old has played seven matches for his nation in the same timeframe. The forward netted in the 3-3 draw at Levante and appeared to have the trust of Ancelotti, with whom he won the Copa del Rey and Champions League titles in 2014.

During the week, Madrid boss Ancelotti said of Bale: “He had problems and lately he hasn’t played, but he’s a player who has entered the history of the club with his titles and goals. He is fine, he’s in good physical condition. He has shown that with his national team and he wants to show it here. He’s confident, he wants to finish well with this club.”

Bale has won a total of 13 trophies at Real Madrid including two La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns. However, his game-time under both Zinedine Zidane and Ancelotti has significantly reduced in recent years – with his exit this summer at the end of his contract.

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