The first half on Wednesday night was all Madrid's. But the semi-final of this seasons Copa Del Rey will be remembered by the scoreline at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid 0 - 3 Barcelona.
Another embarrassing loss at the hands of their arch-rivals at home has left an all too familiar taste in the mouths of the Los Blancos. Once again Gareth Bale found himself on the bench, and while he did come on in the second half, the only thing he gained by playing was burning a few hundred calories. Full Time came, and he darted down the tunnel. It was an all too familiar sight to see time alone, and with recent reports coming out of the Madrid locker-room, he might also be alone outside the football pitch.
Bale is not the first Galactico to take a brutal hit from the Madrid beat, and he will not be the last. But the continuous and unrelenting onslaught from the local press is beyond the regular hammering that average Madrid superstar has to endure. It doesn't help that he does not have the backing of the Meringues faithful. And it has become evidently clear that he is completely isolated from his teammates. It's like the entire city has made running him out of town their number one mission.
Courtois went in detail last month about Bale's reluctance to mingle with the rest of the squad. The Welshman would often skip team dinners in favor of sticking to his early bedtime. He went on by saying that Bale's love of golf would mean that he would often go back to Britain whenever he had the time instead assimilating with this teammates.
The Belgian keeper is not alone in voicing out his displeasure with Bale. Marcelo has gone on the record to state that Bale continues to communicate in English even though the 29-year-old has been in the Spanish capital for his sixth season.
His inability to homogenize with his not so new surroundings may be the most prominent point that his detractors hammer him on. The only person he might be on friendly terms with is Luka Modric. The two were teammates during their time at Tottenham Hotspur. Besides the Croat, Bale might not get along with anyone else in the Bernabeu.
Last weeks encounter against Levante proved the everything that has been said so far about him. Again with a scowl on his face, he came on as a second-half substitute. When he scored the penalty that handed Madrid their three points, Bale bitterly shunned Lucas Vasquez from embracing him. After coming back from another injury in late-January, Bale has once again struggled for game time and form. This goal could have been the start of a fresh chapter for Bale in his Madrid tenure. Instead, it turned into an ugly affair and added another nail to his coffin.
How many more times are we going to see the discontent and the continuing divide between him and the club? This is not a new story but will be the defining statement of his time in Madrid. His failure to gain the love of Spanish capital has been a growing problem. The net result, their resentment continues to burn a hole in his legacy. The events in Levante join might not be his lowest point Los Blancos, but it is unlikely to get better from here.
When Madrid broke the transfer record to sign Bale, he was hailed as the heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo. Not long ago, Bale was deemed beyond reproach in the heralded B.B.C triumvirate. With the constant speculation that Cristiano would leave Spain coupled with the decline of Karim Benzema, Bale was Real Madrid's failsafe that they could build around. Things have not gone according to plan. Ronaldo is not at the head of Juventus' frontline, and Benzema is having a more productive season after a dreadful 2017-18. Bale is not the face of Real Madrid. Time and again his body has failed him, and the winger is no longer untouchable. He might be excess baggage.
Bale has become synonymous with injuries. His at-time apathetic play on the pitch and his ability to drift into oblivion has angered the Madrid faithful. His apparent lack of urgency and tireless work on the ball is unlike many of the great players who have graced the Santiago Bernabeu.
Vasquez is a hard worker who may not have the technical skill or talent of his Welsh counterpart, but his effort cannot be questioned. The recently acquired Vinicius Júnior is still incredibly raw though the 18-year-old's motor and trickery have already made him a fan favorite. Both have eclipsed Bale in the pecking order under their Santiago Scolari.
Neither might ever reach the heights that Bale has achieved. Though it cannot be denied that both give it their all when called upon. Bale's brace in last years Champions League final might be among the all-time great performances in the competition and in all of football. But his body does not allow him to be on the pitch for more than a few weeks at a time. His limbs have failed him. The injuries prevented him from gaining a rhythm and is never in form or peak condition to deliver every week.
This was his narrative around him when Zinedine Zidane was Real Madrid's manager. Who can blame a manager for not fielding player who's forever sidelined? Bale can be an incredibly volatile player to deal with. On the one hand, he is among the most talented players of his generation. On the other, his legs continue to let him down. Bale is capable of incredible feats, but the fear of recurrent injuries prevents him from giving it his all during every match. The problem is cyclical with no end in sight.
Carlo Ancelotti did not have the luxury to drop Bale when the veteran Italian roamed the sidelines for two seasons. The Welshmen was incredibly productive during Ancelotti and Bale is the apple of Florentino Pérez's eye. Zidane has equity in the Spanish capital that Ancelotti never had. He could get away by substituting or not playing Bale at all as he had the status of being a club legend and he continuously delivered titles. A year after delivering La Decima, Ancelotti was fired following a trophyless season. Zidane, on the other hand, won three straight Champions League titles in his short spell as manager.
The inevitable departure of Cristiano Ronaldo was meant to be followed by the Gareth Bale era. It was expected to be the time when the heir was supposed to take his rightful place on the throne. The Portuguese superstar never had a fruitful relationship with Pérez, and the President of Real Madrid banked on Bale picking up from where Ronaldo left off. Instead, now more than ever has Bale appeared on the fringes of the club.
Perhaps now Pérez sees Bale has become a liability that holds Real Madrid back - no matter how valuable he is for their commercial interests.
Bale has been surpassed by another young and budding talent on the rise. How ironic considering this was the role he once occupied. Vinicius Junior brings about the flair and excitement that Bale once brought about. Still, an unfinished product, his tenacity and ability to strike fear in the heart of opposing defenses is a boon to an impotent Real Madrid attack. He is the prototypical player that instantly has the Madrid fans fall in love with.
Pérez might not have completely given up on his prized acquisition, but the one man still keeping Bale at the Bernabeu is his agent - Jonathan Barnett. Often time he has publicly come to the defense of his client and has gone as far as to criticize the other players of not having Bale's best interest at heart. Barnett and his Stellar Group Limited are among the most powerful and influential agencies in European football. Spain does not see him in the same light. He is seen as a disruptor that has come to sow seeds of discontent, and that upsets the balance and chemistry of Real Madrid.
Currently ranked as the third-biggest agent in sports by Forbes, Barnett has made attempts to inroads into the other Spanish clubs. Just this weeks, Barnett was able to lure Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid's cherished midfielder) to sign with his agency with rumors of a summer transfer heating up. Bale was the mechanism that Barnett used to enter the Spanish market. With the veteran agent looking to dethrone Jorge Mendes as the predominant agent in Spanish football, it seems like the Welshman will stay put in Madrid till at least 2022.
By no means is Barnett a villain. He has done right by his client by making the winger the 4th highest paid player in football. And should the Welshmen come to terms that his with the Los Blancos is over, Barnett will once again find a way to secure him another lucrative contract in another European giant.
Real Madrid has tried to offload him on a number of occasions but to no avail. Eden Hazard, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane, and Kylian Mbappe; all have been linked to joining with Spanish giants. The main obstacle for Madrid - besides Hazards reluctance with his one foot in, one foot out stance and Chelsea's recent transfer ban - has been the fact that Bale still calls Madrid home.
Football is a fluid game and changes daily. Bale could just as easily find his form and become injury free, or the status quo remains. Regardless, last night’s El-Clasico loss does not help his case.