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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Richie Sadlier: Gareth Bale's confidence looks shot - a move to Old Trafford would be ideal

With the fans on his back and his confidence low, Gareth Bale should look to move

Gareth Bale has had to contend with jeers and booing from Real Madrid supporters
Gareth Bale has had to contend with jeers and booing from Real Madrid supporters
Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

Being booed and jeered by your own fans is not pleasant. Having the manager rip your performance apart in front of the whole dressing room is tough too.

Reading newspaper reports that single you out as the weak link is no fun either, but they weren't the most difficult issues I had to contend with when things were going bad. What I found the hardest was knowing my team-mates didn't want me in the team.

I knew I wasn't good enough. There were several reasons that accounted for my promotion to the first team when I was 18 but the fact was I shouldn't have been there. The manager insisted on playing with a six-foot striker and there was nobody else. The transfer embargo in place at the time because the club was in administration ruled out buying a replacement.

There has always been a push to play youth players in the first team at Millwall but I wasn't ready in the eyes of most of the players in the squad. It was one of those 'character-building' phases of life but at the time it was horrendous.

I don't usually find common ground with the players at Real Madrid. More often than not there are enough differences between their lives and the life I had not to bother looking for similarities in our careers. But watching Gareth Bale this season brings those early memories back, and as daft as it sounds it's hard not to sympathise with what he has to put up with.

Training was toughest because players didn't have to tone down their criticism when I made a mistake. You might think the absence of cameras or supporters would have made that easier to handle, but it just meant the players didn't censor their outbursts. They didn't hold back if a move broke down because of a bad touch or a bad decision by me. The scenario I dreaded most was a one-touch game of five-a-side, an impossible game to play if you have the levels of confidence I had at that time.

Gareth Bale is happy with life at Real Madrid
Gareth Bale is happy with life at Real Madrid

There's no scope for just battling your way through it or relying on your height to make an impact. It obviously did nothing for my self-belief, which was already low enough.

The coverage of Bale's second year in Madrid has been dominated by negativity. He isn't playing well enough. He isn't scoring enough or assisting enough. He doesn't speak Spanish well enough, and if it wasn't for the input of club president Florentino Perez he wouldn't be in Carlo Ancelotti's team. He doesn't enjoy the support of his team-mates and the fans constantly boo him.

Everything from his body language to his haircut is grounds for concern. He's the player most criticised in the Madrid media, and he's one of the scapegoats for the club's failure to reach the Champions League final.

Surely the time has come for him to end his spell in La Liga?

Bale was praised in some quarters for coming out to speak to the press after Wednesday's disappointment against Juventus. Saying nothing in interviews is easy, though, and that's what he did. There's nothing brave or revealing in hiding behind bland clichés. Every comment I made about my experience back then was similar to what he said on Wednesday.

Credit to the lads, he said, assuring people that nobody is hurting more than the dressing room. It's about re-grouping, he said, learning from this season and coming back stronger. It's disappointing, sure, he said, but it just wasn't meant to be.

What he could have said, and what I wanted to say on many occasions, would have gotten very few comments of praise but at least it would have been the truth. Stop booing me. Stop jeering my every touch. Surely you realise the damage you're all doing to my confidence by constantly focusing on my failings?

What exactly is your definition of being a supporter? It's not like I don't give a shit, or that I'm the only one out there making mistakes. If he had said any of this, it would have been the end of his time at the club, though I assume he would be keen to leave if he could at the end of this season.

It's difficult to know what goes on in the Real Madrid dressing room but it's reportedly a divided group. They'll finish the season without a major trophy, which amounts to failure for them.

Bale's confidence looks shot, his performances are poor, and his manager is about to be sacked. The president who signed him is believed to be open to letting him go. The media are on his case and his team-mates seem far from impressed. If the rumours are true about Manchester United, he should leave straight away.

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