Gareth Bale’s goals can only silence his Real Madrid critics for so long

Bale’s double in the 2-0 win against Levante was vital for the Welshman, and his club, writes Andy Mitten.

Gareth Bale of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring Real's opening goal during their Primera Liga match against Levante at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 15, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Gareth Bale’s double in the 2-0 win against Levante was vital for the Welshman, and his club. Real Madrid hadn’t won in three games, they had surrendered the lead in the Primera Liga to Barcelona and the vultures were circling. Bale, who hadn’t scored in 10 games, was held partly responsible by an aggrieved Bernabeu crowd.

He reacted by kicking the corner flag and covering his ears after his first goal, as if to say: “I can’t hear you booing.” For the second, there was a misunderstanding as Cristiano Ronaldo thought it was his goal, followed by a slightly contrived group hug.

It wasn’t a classic performance ahead of Sunday’s clasico, but the first-half goals lifted the mood at Madrid. That feeling could be temporary and speculation about Bale’s future is set to run.

Manchester United wanted Bale and that interest hasn’t dimmed, but he has told Madrid and those close to him that he wants to prove himself in Spain. He has enjoyed some fine moments since his record transfer from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013, but not enough to justify his €100 million (Dh389m) fee – or at least that is what Madrid fans think. Bale was among the players jeered, with critics saying that he doesn’t defend enough, but the same criticisms are not levelled at Bale’s strike partners, the out-of-form Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

There have been valid criticisms about his lack of progress speaking Spanish – he only fully integrates with the team’s English speakers such as Luca Modric or assistant coach Paul Clement – but the overall opprobrium has been harsh. Bale is a great player who deserves support – which he ostensibly received from his president, Florentino Perez, in an extraordinary press conference called after last week’s home defeat to Schalke. Perez gave his public support to coach Carlo Ancelotti, saw attacks on the player as attacks on his business model of signing the world’s finest, but in blaming the media Perez was also biting the hand he feeds with leaks.

Bale’s goals cleared the air, for now. Madrid – and their cheerleaders in the media – need unity ahead of Sunday’s clasico. On Monday, Bale was pictured roaring like a lion on the front page of Marca with the instruction/hope that he will show “another face” at Camp Nou on Sunday. It’s a huge game on so many levels.

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