A golf-obsessed loner who has shunned his teammates – that’s the image being portrayed by the Real Madrid media of Gareth Bale. But what is true, and what is insidious spin?

Sunday wasn’t the best day for Gareth Bale. At all.

The Welshman came into the Ciutat de Valencia stadium focused on his mobile phone’s screen. A quick zoom in by the cameraman revealed what he was watching: golf. Minutes before a crucial game against Levante where LaLiga could be gone for good, the player seemed more interested in how the par three of an unnamed course would be resolved.

Things didn’t get better minutes later when he started the game on the bench. Again. And later, when Solari ordered him to warm-up but decided on subbing Fede Valverde first, Bale decided to stop giving a damn. He stopped his warm-up and sat down on the bench again, with his team mates surprised and speechless.

Eventually, Solari subbed him into the game. And, when Casemiro’s dive was awarded a penalty, he didn’t hesitate: got the ball, fired the shot, scored. Easy stuff for him, as the usual takers (Ramos and Benzemà) were absent.

But he wasn’t happy. He didn’t celebrate the goal as any player would. Actually, quite the opposite: he was pissed. After scoring, a team mate tried cheering him up… and he slapped Lucas Vazquez’s hand away. And then we, and the whole world, realised that Gareth Bale was angrier than usual.

Many insider pieces and reports later, we have (more or less) a plausible explanation for Bale’s sulky mood lately, which is a product of a wide range of facts happening at the same time. The biggest one, obviously, is that he’s no longer a starter: both Lucas and Vinicius have proven their reliability to Solari, who’s never going to touch  Benzemà’s starring role.

But Bale’s problems cut deeper. He’s not happy with some of his team-mates, which has turned his particular mood and habits into some sort of running joke which was made public a few weeks ago. Thibaut Courtois revealed that Bale is called ‘the golfer’ inside the locker room and that he didn’t attend group dinners because “he goes to sleep at 11pm”. Gareth wasn’t pleased when Marcelo added, in another interview, that he is mocked for not being able to speak Spanish properly after six seasons in Madrid.

A vicious circle for Gareth Bale in the dressing room

At the end of the day, the facts say that the player is both a victim and the executioner of a by-the-book case of isolation inside a work group. He does nothing to become part of the pack, and the pack shows no interest in welcoming him after the many chances given over the years. Veterans don’t forget that, after winning the third Champions League in a row last May, the only talking points coming out of his mouth was his future and his unhappiness.

It’s not the first time Bale has felt this way and it probably won’t be the last one, even though he’s been backed by president Florentino Perez many times, even when Zinedine Zidane was keen on sitting him on the bench.

Solari seems smart enough to know this, actually, and carefully avoided adding fuel to the fire on Tuesday: he was asked seven (again, seven!) times about the controversy with Bale and he deflected all attempts every time, reassuring fans that “every single player is focused” on the upcoming Clasico games.

The manager, in this sense, is quite pragmatic: why open a new ‘Case Bale’ when he’s still got his hands full with ‘Case Isco’?

While the media keep slamming the Welshman for his attitude (a couple of ‘insider scoops’ have called him ‘arrogant’ due to his ‘disgraceful attitude’ and have torn him apart due to his love of golf and lack of interest in becoming more integrated with the city and the club), this whole mess is just the prelude to another summer in which his name will be one of the biggest in the transfer market banter business.

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