Bale meets and greets,then jets back to Wales
He may have cost them a record £85m transfer fee, but Gareth Bale's first appearance of the season will not be for Real Madrid. After the razzmatazz of his unveiling at the Bernabeu yesterday, Bale caught the first flight out of Spain to Cardiff, where he will join the Wales squad for their World Cup qualifiers this weekend.
"I'm in good shape," he said of his physical condition. "But I'm looking forward to getting some time out on the pitch. If selected, obviously."
Speaking to a packed press conference, Bale insisted he was ready to play for his country, despite the tenuous nature of his transfer precluding him from joining Tottenham's pre-season training.
"It's been difficult," he said of the negotiations. "But I'm here now. I believed from the beginning they (Madrid's president Florentino Perez and his advisers) would make my dream come true. I can't wait for my future to start here. It wasn't easy to leave (Tottenham), but when a club like Real Madrid comes in it's hard to turn down."
Like the rest of the watching football world, Bale only became certain he would be transferred late on Sunday evening. From then on he faced a rapid scramble to prepare for the medical and grand ceremonial welcome in Madrid.
While generous about his former employers (he described Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, as "a tough businessman doing his best for the club") he was much more effusive about his new place of work.
He said he had been a Madrid fan since he watched Zinedine Zidane's sublime goal in the Champions League final in 2002.
The Spanish League, he suggested, was "the best in the world" and Madrid was crammed with the best players. His ambition was to help the club win its elusive 10th European Cup. "The big attraction of coming here wasn't just playing in the Champions League," he said. "It was having the chance to win it."
Asked whether the enormity of his fee would create additional pressure, Bale insisted he was not concerned about it. "It's not as much pressure as I put on myself," he said of the expectation.
As yet he is not sure where in the Madrid team he will play. "I've had a brief chat with the manager. We didn't speak in detail. Wherever I'm put on the pitch, I'll give 100pc."
But one thing is for sure: he is not about to demand he takes all the free-kicks as he did at Tottenham. That, he is very much aware, is someone else's job at the club.
"He's the boss here, the best player in the world," he said of Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid's seasoned free-kick expert.
"I'll have to wait and see what he says." (© Daily Telegraph, London)