Bale says he is 'stronger' after Real Madrid uncertainty

AFP , Thursday 5 Sep 2019

Wales' Gareth Bale (Reuters)

Gareth Bale has broken his silence on his difficult summer at Real Madrid, saying he feels stronger than ever after almost leaving the 13-time European champions.

Wales captain Bale looked set for a big-money move to China in the summer transfer window only for the deal to collapse at the last minute, and while the 30-year-old admitted the situation was not ideal, he said "it didn't impact on me too much".

"I don't listen to them (the critics) because they don't really know what they are on about," he said.

"I know most people don't know the situation, don't understand the situation.

"Coming back to pre-season, I just kept my head down and worked hard in training. I feel good, probably stronger than ever at the moment.

"The things that happened will stay private with the club. If you want answers, maybe you need to ask Real Madrid."

Bale, speaking to the press in Cardiff ahead of Wales' Euro 2020 qualifier at home to Azerbaijan on Friday, was frozen out by Real manager Zinedine Zidane at the end of last season.

The situation came to a head in July when Zidane said he hoped a deal for Bale could be struck soon "for everyone's sake", prompting an angry response from the Welshman's agent Jonathan Barnett, who labelled the Frenchman "a disgrace".

A planned move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning then collapsed and Barnett said there would be "no makeshift deals" to get Bale out of Madrid.

Following injuries to Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio, Bale has started Real's opening three league games and, on Sunday, he scored his first goals since March 16 with a double in the 2-2 draw at Villarreal.

"It's not been ideal, but I have been here before. I know how to deal with it," Bale said.

"But I wouldn't say it's the worst time of my career. I remember not playing for a year under Harry Redknapp (at Tottenham). I have kept my head down, kept grinding through everything.

"I had a good pre-season in terms of training -- not so much in games -- then started the season well. Things in football, I know, can turn quickly. It's a matter of time always."

- Bale under fire -

Bale has been heavily criticised by the Madrid media for failing to speak Spanish and not interacting with other squad members at the Bernabeu.

Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois appeared to make life more difficult for Bale last season when he said he did not attend a players-only dinner because he goes "to bed at 11:00 pm".

The Belgium international also said the players called Bale "the golfer" because of his well-documented love for playing the game.

But Bale said he was happy with the nickname, saying: "I am a golfer. Have you not seen the pictures?

"I spoke to him (Courtois) about it and he said it as a joke. People took it out of context, but I'm very happy with the nickname to be honest. It's a great one."

Wales are looking to their talisman to revive their Euro 2020 qualification hopes after back-to-back June defeats to Croatia and Hungary.

Bale was out-of-sorts in those games and, asked if he felt more settled now, he replied: "I suppose so... the transfer window is closed now.

"I don't think mentally it affected me at all, but maybe not playing for four, five, six weeks coming into those games, physically, I wasn't where I wanted to be.

"It was a bit frustrating, but those games are over now and we have to forget about them and look to the future."

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