Gareth Bale made his recommendation with regret and reprimand. The recommendation was made with a smile and in the setting of a game show. But, like many jokes, it contained truth, as well as a touch of hurt.
In a UK TV program called “A League of Their Own”, the Real Madrid former player was asked for some advice to Jude Bellingham the Briton, who had followed him into the Santiago Bernabeu. The answer? Play the game. Play the game.
Bale’s own eight-season experience in Spain could have inspired many of his statements. Bale could have told us to “win everything that there is to win”.
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You can also leap 100 feet in the air and connect with an outrageous overhead kick to score the best goal ever scored at a European Cup Final, a cartoonish moment of brilliance that will save your team and help them win their most prized trophy.
How about: the most ridiculous goal in the history of the Copa del Rey Final, with a run so huge the pitch could not contain it.
It should work. But that wasn’t the answer. Bale’s advice was to “play the game in Madrid”. You can be a puppet and speak to the media if you do not play the game. This is probably what led to [my] failure. It was not something I wanted to do. I wanted to go home and play football. This hindered my performance and made me more vulnerable to attack. My advice is to play Real Madrid’s game off-field. “You have to talk after the games. Make sure that you speak in Spanish. Do these kinds of things.”
In Spain, Gareth Bale won three LaLiga titles, one Copa del Rey and five Champions Leagues (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2022) but was never a fan favorite. Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
Bellingham was advised, essentially, to do the same things before. . What matters the most is, of course, how you perform, your goals, and the trophies that you win. If you can’t play well enough, then forget about it. You can’t live in blissful isolation and separate yourself from everything else. It’s definitely not all that counts.
Going abroad isn’t just about having fun, but about . Living it is the key. If you’re able, try to enjoy it as well. Yes, it’s about playing the game. Homer Simpson said it best: It’s funny, because it is true. Bale’s experience and numbers, as well as the gap between them, confirm what he has said. It speaks volumes about the narratives that are constructed, peoples perceptions, success, etc.
Bale was a wounded man, as his words demonstrated. He would have been entitled to think that the treatment he received was not always good. It was difficult to reconcile the level of criticism, and even rejection, with his achievements. In a newspaper, a few years ago, Eden Hazard was injured and unable to play for months. He became increasingly insignificant. The line read: Hazard is halfway towards Bale. wishes that he were halfway to being a Bale. He never got even close to becoming a Bale.
One newspaper reported that when Bale left Madrid he “cost EUR101m, and had left a few key goals behind, as well as a medical history, and more off the field controversies, than Madrid would like.” What is a small collection? Bale was a great player in Spain. Take a look at his trophies and see what an incredible career he had. For goodness sake, he won five Champions Leagues and three Leagues. In two European Finals, he scored and in another he won a shootout penalty. He had 106 goals, and 68 of them were assists. He was a legendary figure.
Correct: He could have been.
It was said that even when he played well, he had a more athletic physique, and exhibited a lack of empathy with his absences, almost as if wanted injured. He was accused of being a monster, wanting to sleep early and enjoying golf.
He liked living in Spain, contrary to what people thought. The whole golf thing began, by the way. After a Champions League match one night, he replied, quite naturally, that, he did not know much about his opponents for the next round. He preferred to watch golf.
This became a standard joke, one that was so old, poor, obvious, weak, and everywhere. “Wales. Golf. Madrid” followed him, something he had never said. It was an amplification by Predrag Mijatovic of a charge made. Bale’s advice was repeated this week after Bellingham had received it. Josep Pedrerol, the sports equivalent of a TV preacher, who gives sermons on the show, spat out: “Advice?” “More football and less golf.”
Many in the media have taken it personally. He wasn’t the only person to attack Bale this week. He dares to point a finger at us!
The point is not only now: Bale was furious when he called it “disgusting journalism,” “slanderous, and derogatory,” and “speculative” at a time “when people take their lives due to the relentlessness and callousness of the press.” He also asked, “At a time where people commit suicide because of media’s callousness, and I wonder who holds these journalists accountable, and those news organizations that let them write such articles?” In that line, there was a hint of his lack of concern, despite the fact that he was distant. This was evident again in this past week.
Bale may not have said it in this manner, and his words were more criticism than regret, but if his unwillingness to accept the role he played in all of it was evident, then a certain recognition existed. It’s a partial recognition, maybe, and not articulated or fully accepted, but there it is. It’s a nice Spanish expression: ” Consejos Vendo Que Para Mi No Tengo”which is “I Sell Advice, Because I Have None For Me.” It was very easy to assume, after listening to Bale’s words the other day: “sure, but why didn’t you do it?” Why did you not follow your own advice? You could have easily concluded that he knew that. At least he knows it now, even if not then. He said that was “his downfall.”
The media wasn’t all that was involved. Press plays an important role in shaping agendas and the perception of the public, but so do the people. Bale’s exit was the saddest because no one seemed to be sad about it. They had given up long ago and were fairly sure that he too had.
Bale, in fact, had already checked out of the club before leaving. He wrote in a letter that he wanted to “wear the pristine, white kit and wear the Santiago Bernabeu crest, play there, win titles, be a part of the famed Santiago Bernabeu team, win the Champions League.” Now I can look back and reflect, and honestly say that my dream has become a reality, and so much more. By the end it did not feel like that. He didn’t want to play the sport any more. It is only 34 years old, and he’s been retired almost a full year.
might reflect is the right word.
Bale felt wronged for a very long time. The goal he scored in the Champions League Final in Kiev vindicated him, but the happiness was overshadowed by the frustration which had built up inside of him. He had become withdrawn in the past couple of Madrid years. He did not play, and certainly had no impact. Three goals were scored in his last season; one was scored the following season. Zinedine Zidane had been a poor coach for a long time, but now the situation was much worse. He had disengaged, enthusiasm gone.
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His behaviour was likely to have been viewed negatively, even if it did not warrant the furious criticism he received. He also has other faults in his advice. For example, he says that not speaking to the press is not a good idea, yet few players are doing it now, not least because their club prohibits them from doing so. Many players who speak little Spanish are popular. Many timid footballers were popularized by the public. Some of the things he could do to help himself were so easy, so fundamental, that it would have been bloody-minded not to take action.
He avoided club obligations by leaving early from Bernabeu matches. He was photographed holding the “Wales golf Madrid” banner. He thought that it was mostly funny. He thought the mockery was funny, but they didn’t.
He should have realized it. He should have acted, even on a surface level or for cynical motives. That’s what he said this week. He knew, or knows that now, even if his argument was framed as “why change?” and he said he would be a puppet if played the game. It was so easy. His camp was told to do the same, and he had also been instructed. But they did not. They didn’t speak the truth, they didn’t act the truth. Didn’t… play the game.
It was sound advice, at least in this respect.
It’s good, but it isn’t needed. Bellingham’s efforts to date are not enough for him to match Bale. It is clear, however, that even if Bellingham falls short or only makes it half way, his legacy will be greater than that of Bale. This Englishman who was at the Bernabeu this week and who went to the dressing rooms afterwards is not just a great footballer, but he is also a key member of a group that is going to be around for a long time.
Bellingham has been a standout player for Real Madrid. Not just the goals – although there are a lot – but everything. The personality, leadership and understanding are all important. The way he interacts with his fans, right down to the celebration, is what makes him stand out. It’s also the words he uses and the gratitude he shows. It’s the way he manages everything around him. The capacity to pack the stage and to be in control. His entire career, his people, and attitude. He is what he is.
The perfect mix of caring about Real Madrid and not caring at all that it is Real Madrid. It is this combination that makes him the best . The goosebumps, the noise and his desire to stay here forever are all mentioned. The awareness, enthusiasm and complete control are what matter.
It’s even better when you get the feeling that this is a genuine experience, and that there’s no need for it to be a simulation. Gareth: thanks for the kind words, but don’t worry, Jude Bellingham understands.