Gareth Bale’s failure to learn Spanish means his 13 trophies count for nothing at Real Madrid – if only he’d asked Woodgate for advice
SPANISH is the most important currency at Real Madrid.
We all love a saga in football, and this one has been dragging on for longer than most.
I’m personally happy it looks to be finally coming to an end. Not because I want Gareth Bale to leave Real Madrid, but because frankly I’m tired of the same questions resurfacing about whether he’ll go, where he’ll go, and why Zinedine Zidane doesn’t fancy him.
The facts are there; Zidane has not been using him, and with the players now at his disposal, he looks even less likely to get a game. Zidane has said in no uncertain terms that it’s best for everyone if Bale leaves, let’s all move on.
Last night I tuned into Zidane’s live press conference (which was supposed to be previewing their pre-season game against Arsenal) and watched uncomfortably as he fielded question after question about Gareth Bale.
There were probably about twelve in a row! Fair play to the journalists, who tried from every angle and in the end Zizou simply explained (and repeated) that he was in the squad and would train “as normal.”
I was surprised to see that the press officer, Juan (former journalist at Real Madrid TV) who was sitting beside him did not interject, but this is Zidane, Real Madrid legend, I think he can handle himself.
REAL MADRID CAN BE A LONELY PLACE
The Frenchman did backpedal a tad from his previous comments by saying Bale staying is “not a problem” but that’s what any manager trying to hold onto a player’s market value would say.
A few years back I went to Valedebebas, Real Madrid’s training complex (affectionately known as ‘Real Madrid City’) to interview Paul Clement under Carlo Ancelotti.
Back then Zidane was managing Real Madrid Castilla on the adjacent pitch to the first team, but I watched Bale closely, as even back then the rumours of his unhappiness had begun. Apparently he wasn’t integrating well or using the language much.
As he walked off the pitch laughing and joking, it certainly didn’t appear to fit that narrative. As he passed me I automatically went into Spanish mode “hola” and then laughed at myself speaking my terrible Spanish – it takes one to know one!
Bale’s face lit up when he heard me speaking English and I totally got it. Real Madrid can feel a rather lonely place at times with quite clear cliques. Even in possession exercises the players are often split by nationality.
I know the club well, having spent a couple of seasons setting up Real Madrid TV in 2005. I know how hard it is to try and learn the language.
I used to think it was a matter of intelligence, and having gone through the process I have (perhaps arrogantly) concluded that some people are just not hard wired for it.
I remember longing for a ‘bit of banter’ and when Real Madrid faced Arsenal at Highbury in the Champions league back in 2006 I was beside myself with excitement to hear English voices once again.
During my time at Real Madrid I tried, and boy did I try, but as an extrovert I found it extremely difficult not being able to express myself and so I retreated. I remember getting a little stick from Iker Casillas who clearly felt disrespected by my lack of engagement with the players, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.
I learned the hard way the importance of it at that club. It is one of the most valuable currencies at Real Madrid, even more value it seems than being a great player.
Take Jonathan Woodgate, who had a career at Real Madrid to forget. The fans had to wait 18 months for him to finally make his debut against Athletic Bilbao only for him to score an own goal and get sent off.
“Not the debut you hoped for,” I muttered meekly in the first interview he gave for the club channel, fair play to him for actually talking to us at all.
He did it in Spanish too, that’s my point.
MACCA AND WOODGATE EMBRACED THE CULTURE
He may have been branded Real Madrid’s worst ever signing, but actually left the club with his head held high in terms of treatment from the fans. He embraced the culture and the language and the fans loved him for it.
They are a hard bunch to please,it doesn’t take long (or much) for the white hankies to come out!
To even try and compare the two in terms of playing would be an insult, Bale who won 13 trophies, and scored so many important goals for the club (not least a couple in Champions League finals) to Woodgate’s nine appearances, but this is my point.
There are many other examples, Steve McManaman, who reflects on his time at Real Madrid with great affection. He embraced the language and the culture.
I remember reading his book El Macca, which told of his wife Victoria making great strides at the club to put things in place to help foreign players settle, like a ‘fixer’ to find permanent accommodation for the new recruits.
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Yet Michael Owen kept himself to himself, played a lot of golf (a la Bale) and looks back on a miserable time.
They say ‘never meet your heroes’ so I feel some sympathy for Bale. The two seem similar in terms of how humble they are, doing the talking though their playing rather than their chat.
When he first signed for Real Madrid I recall Bale saying it was every young footballer’s dream to hear a legend like Zidane saying “It’s impossible to forget a player of his quality” it must hurt to hear Zizou talk about him so dismissively after giving so much to the club.
From what I am hearing and seeing, Bale has fallen a bit out of love with football, so even though footballing wise Bale has a lot to give, a move to China could well be the perfect match. A sad ending for someone who once said he would have come to Real Madrid for a penny, by the sounds of it he’ll be leaving for a pretty penny too!
Bale loves golf so much he had a three-hole course made in the garden of his Wales mansion.
Former Spurs star Bale, 30, who leads an incredibly private life in Spain, has rented the home of Brazil legend Kaka for the past six years he’s spent at the La Liga giants.
There, he’s filled the lavish property’s garage with some of the world’s most stunning motors, and lives with his gorgeous childhood sweetheart Emma Rhys-Jones and their brood.
If that’s not enough, with his whopping salary he bought his own bar in Cardiff – despite being completely teetotal.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON BALE’S LIFE.
This content was originally published here.