MADRID – Real Madrid head coach Santiago Solari said on Tuesday his whole team remained focused on the upcoming Clasico against archrival Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semis tie, and not on the recent conduct of his Wales winger Gareth Bale.
Bale, 29, has begun to display apparently poor behavior on and off the pitch such as not celebrating goals he nets, leaving games before they are finished, not attending team dinners, and stopping warm-ups if he learns he is not to be the team’s first substitution of the game.
Though Solari refused to discuss Bale during the press conference held on the eve of the Spanish Cup’s semis, the Argentine coach did shoot a backhanded poke at the Welshman, saying: “Our fans are our only undisputed starting player, and I would ask all of them to come (and support the team).”
“We are interested in playing a beautiful match,” Solari stressed.
Bale played well Sunday in Madrid’s last match, sealing a 2-1 win over Levante.
Yet, after the goal, in the midst of supposed-celebration, the Welshman pushed the embracing arms of Spain winger Lucas Vazquez off of his shoulder.
It was an odd act which caused many onlookers to postulate that Bale is unhappy with his role at Madrid.
The Welsh international star was expected to come to prominence following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure over the summer from Madrid to Juventus but it seems like Bale’s position as a substitute is set to continue under Solari’s new system.
During his career in Madrid, Bale has often played as a substitute despite his historic overhead kick at the 2018 UEFA Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine, which allowed Madrid to claim its 13th CL title.
According to Spanish media, the Welshman found it hard to accept that the young Brazilian forward Vinicius Jr., as well as Vazquez, have taken the place he coveted on the starting line-up.
Yet, there are greater problems with Bale than just his playing.
He has not ingratiated himself to the fan base or his Spanish teammates as he still does not speak Spanish after almost six years at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium having arrived in Madrid in Sept. 2013 from English side Tottenham Hotspurs, according to a recent interview with Madrid’s goalie Thibaut Courtois.
Bale’s lack of popularity may be connected to his getting playing time, as almost all large soccer clubs often play well-liked players over players with a bad attitude.
Solari did not reveal whether or not he talked to the Welsh star about Bale’s poor behavior and also refused to tell the press the starting line-up for Wednesday’s anticipated encounter, stating only that he understood why there is much interest in Bale currently.
“I understand that everyone has his point of view, and the press (usually) puts the focus where it prefers, our focus is on what is important, on the battle to win, to be united and concentrated from the first minute of the Clasico,” said the Madrid leader.
When asked about Barcelona’s superstar Lionel Messi, Solari explained that he and his team are not feel afraid of playing any rival, team or player.
“That word (fear) does not exist for anyone who competes in soccer. We enjoy the competition, and put our heart and physique each day. We will go to fight and to win each match,” said Solari.
Earlier in the day, the capital squad wrapped up its preparations for the second leg match with a final practice before the face-off with their Catalan nemesis.
With the exception of midfielder Marcos Llorente, who is still recovering from a muscle injury, the training session was attended by all the first-team players, including Bale.