Gareth Bale has been booed by his own fans and had his car attacked outside the Real Madrid training complex – but he has settled back into Wales life just like he always does, according to his international team-mates.
Bale is usually the story when Chris Coleman’s Wales squad meet up but the focus on the 25-year-old forward is greater than ever ahead of the country’s biggest game for years in Israel on Saturday night.
He’s fine, normal Gareth. I think he’s become a bit acclimatisedNeil Taylor
This time Bale – who has constantly been linked to returning to the Barclays Premier League this summer with Chelsea and Manchester United reportedly leading the way for his signature – has had to run the gauntlet of Madridistas after Real’s 2-1 league defeat to bitter rivals Barcelona on Sunday.
Powerful Madrid newspapers ran polls asking whether the world’s most expensive player should be dropped and 70 per cent of those who responded to the online survey said they wanted Bale left out of the team.
Then matters took a sinister twist in the early hours of Monday morning after the Clasico defeat when fans kicked out at Bale’s white Bentley as he left Madrid’s Valdebebas training base. Having been barracked by his own supporters at the Bernabeu recently this might all be getting Bale a bit down, yet his international colleagues say they have detected no change in a player lauded in Madrid last season for scoring decisive goals in the Champions League and Spanish Cup finals.
“He’s the same as usual,” Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen said. “He’s a world-class player who shows that in every minute in every session.
“It is great to have him here and I doubt the Israelis will be looking forward to facing him. I don’t get the impression that he is someone who is fazed by these sorts of things. It comes with the territory at a club like that and I doubt it has too much influence on him.”
Swansea defender Neil Taylor even suggests Bale has become accustomed to the daily dramas played out in Madrid.
“He’s fine, normal Gareth,” Taylor said. “I think he’s become a bit acclimatised to how his life is now with stuff like that.
“As soon as you get used to that and become comfortable with it, I think you brush everything off quite easily – whether you’re doing well or not doing well you have to take everything the same way. And he’s played in enough big games now to be able to deal with all of that.”
Bale has matured from a shy individual to become one of the leaders in Coleman’s squad during a campaign where Wales remain unbeaten after four games and have given themselves their best chance of qualifying for a major tournament in more than a decade. But Wales face a huge test against Israeli hosts who top Group B after winning their opening three games and Burnley striker Sam Vokes, back in the squad for the first time in more than a year after suffering cruciate knee damage, is just glad that Bale is around to fire the Dragons’ hopes.
“He’s enjoying his football and I know he loves coming away with Wales,” Vokes said. “It’s a big game and he’s used to playing on the big occasion.
“He’s a great character, a strong character, you have to be to play at that level week in, week out.
“Just seeing him a few days here he is buzzing around the place and looking forward to getting started.”