Bale: What’s behind the booing?

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

Real Madrid pulled off an impressive victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday thanks to goals from Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Welsh winger Bale opened the scoring with a delightful volley at Signal-Iduna Park before setting up Ronaldo for the second goal as Madrid demolished the previously unbeaten Bundesliga side.

Yet despite his huge contribution to Madrid’s cause (Bale racked up his third goal and fourth assist in just nine appearances this season) he continues to be singled out for criticism by sections of the Spanish team’s notoriously impatient fans.

The boos and whistles were most noticeable in Madrid’s last Champions League game against APOEL, when despite Bale having a hand in all three of Madrid’s goals he was still jeered as he was substituted with 10 minutes to go.

Coach Zinedine Zidane and many of Madrid’s team have come out to publicly back Bale and called on fans to put an end to the whistles, all to no avail.

So what is behind the Bale booing?

If one looks at his stats then it is really hard to understand. Bale has made 159 appearances for Los Blancos in the four years since he joined them in 2013 from Tottenham for a then world record fee of €100 million. In that time he has scored 70 goals, which equates to almost a goal every two appearances – not too shabby for a winger. He also has almost 50 assists.

Considering he has missed quite a few game through injury they are extremely impressive figures.

With his record beyond question, you have to delve a little deeper to find the reasons why some supporters dislike him.

One of the main reasons is that some fans believe Bale is given preferential treatment because of who he is and how much he cost. The recent rise of homegrown talents Isco and Marco Asensio in Bale’s midfield position have put pressure on him to perform, while coach Zinedine Zidane’s comments last season that Bale would automatically start if fit also added to the fan’s sense of favouritism.

Bale’s failure to learn Spanish has also not helped him. Fans are more accepting to players who they can understand and communicate with directly, as shown with past stars such as Zidane, who made a bigger effort to fit in during their Bernabeu careers.

Without the language link to those fans who continue to jeer him, the Welsh wizard has only one option left and that is to perform on the pitch – a fact he is acutely aware of.

“I just have to try to keep my head down and keep working hard and that’s all I can do,” said Bale recently.

“I can’t control what goes on, I can only control how hard I work on the pitch and you go through ups and downs in your career, it’s how you bounce back [that matters].”

Bale has certainly bounced back well from his most recent absence.

A few more goals and performances like the one against Dortmund and he may finally be able to win over the boo-boys.