Why is Gareth Bale booed by Real Madrid fans: 'Parasite' or unsung legend?

Gareth Bale has 106 goals and 67 assists in 258 matches for Real Madrid and has 18 major trophies with the team, but still finds himself in front of boos and jeers from the fans of his own club.

Bale has been at the receiving end of slander not just from the media, but the club’s own fans over the years – a player whose decisive goals have won the club a Copa del Rey final and Champions League title each.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Gareth Bale had arrived at Santiago Bernabeu as the next Galactico in a window which saw Mesut Ozil, Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain leave the club.

Nine years later, the Wales international is set to leave the club with 18 trophies with the Whites, with the Champions League final set to be a potential swansong. But has Bale lived up to potential, or did he underperform at Real?

Bale joined Los Blancos when they were looking for a winger, a goal scorer and above all, a solution past a broken dressing room after Jose Mourinho's stint.

His pace along the flanks had embarrassed a star-studded Inter Milan side in the Champions League and had the scouts off their chairs. A new Welsh star was in town, beyond Ryan Giggs, in the Premier League.

When he left White Hart Lane, he became the first 100 million Euro transfer in football, Real Madrid’s then record signing.

In his debut season, Bale guided Real to its first silverware under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, with a solo run in the 85th minute and a goal at the end of it against rival Barcelona, and Los Blancos embraced the Welshman with open arms.

With Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale formed one of the most formidable trios in Spanish domestic football, nicknamed the BBC, adding 400 goals for Real Madrid between them (till January 2018).

Bale’s stats: Club and Country

For Wales: 38 goals, 21 assists, 102 matches

For Real Madrid: 106 goals, 67 assists, 258 matches

Highest goal scorer of all time for Wales by Neeladri Bhattacharjee

Bale — Real Madrid’s unsung weapon in the Champions League

Bale has the second-highest goal tally (3) in the finals of Champions League history, one less than Cristiano Ronaldo's, and all the three have been influential in guiding Real to the title.

In his debut season at Madrid, Bale scored six goals and had four assists. Real faced city rival Atletico Madrid in the final.

An injury-time goal by Sergio Ramos kept Ancelotti’s side in the match, but it was Bale’s incredible goal following a run to meet Angel Di Maria’s pass that gave the Whites the lead – one that gave Real La Decima, its 10th UCL title.

Two years later, when the same teams locked horns again in the final. Bale, this time provided an assist with his flicked-header off Toni Kroos’ free-kick being netted in by Ramos before the final was decided in a penalty shoot-out. Bale then scored from the spot and Real lifted the trophy.

His most significant moment in UCL finals, though, came two years later in Kyiv when his brace, including a stunning overhead kick, won the match for Real Madrid and a third successive Champions League title.

In his nine years at the club, the Wales International has 16 goals and 14 assists in 57 appearances – four of which came in the finals in the team’s Champions League success.

Then why is Bale booed by Real Madrid fans?

Bale has been one of the most expensive players in European football in the past decade. Spanish outlet Marca, in March 2022, reported that Bale is the third-highest earner among football professionals in Europe, earning £28.8million annually, which equates to £554,000-a-week.

His consistency, compared to his wages, is seemingly a mismatch. Bale has had 35 injuries and missed 140 matches for Los Blancos, which nearly amounts to three seasons.

Bale Injury history by Neeladri Bhattacharjee

Bale’s first appearance this season for Real in La Liga came on April 8, coming after a period of 654 days, after he was loaned back to Tottenham last season.

Before the Champions League pre-quarterfinal second leg against Manchester City in 2019-20, Bale made himself unavailable with Real trailing 1-2. Real lost in both the legs and was knocked out of the tournament. Then manager Zinedine Zidane , who had a frosty relationship with the winger, claimed Bale had decided not to play.

Before the Clasico this season, Bale pulled out of the squad with a reported back injury, but was fit again for national duty days later.

And there, he guided Wales to the World Cup play-offs final with a brace against Austria, including a magnificent goal from a free-kick. Bale remains the highest goalscorer for his country and wears the captain’s armband, leading it, first to EURO 2020 and now into the play-offs final for Qatar 2022.

This very disparity has baffled Real’s fans and Spanish media alike — the difference in game-time for Real and Wales.

While the media has been scathing, the fans have gone for boos.

When Bale replaced Benzema on his return after nearly two years at Santiago Bernabeu, he was audibly jeered and booed by a section of the fans.

With time, Bale’s response to trolls and critics became indifferent and sometimes impish. His reluctance to have his wage bill axed amid the Covid-19 pandemic did not help, with sections of the Spanish media branding him a ‘parasite’ who was ‘sucking out’ money from Real Madrid.

RELATED | Gareth Bale labelled as a "parasite" by Spanish media

‘Bale: A part of the history of the club’

Nine years since Bale’s arrival at Santiago Bernabeu, the player has 106 goals and 67 assists in 258 matches for Los Blancos and 18 major trophies with the team — more than Real Madrid legends such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul Gonzalez and Alfredo de Stefano.

Despite all the criticism, the current manager Carlo Ancelotti, the one who signed him for Real back in 2013, has decided to stand with him ahead of the Champions League final, the match set to be his last for Real Madrid

“It's not important if he plays,” Ancelotti said. “What's important is Bale is a part of the history of this club.

“He'll always be in the memories of Real Madrid fans. He has written some great chapters; we have to recognise that.”

ALSO READ | Ancelotti calls on Real Madrid fans to recognise Bale's contributions

The 32-year-old arrived at Real Madrid in Ancelotti’s first season as Real Madrid’s manager.

As the Italian hinted at retirement after the current spell as Madrid manager, Bale’s chapter at Real Madrid is also set to end with a conundrum of crucial Champions League final goals, jeers from fans and above all an anthology of complex vicissitudes of the beautiful game.

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