Ever since the 24-year-old Welshman signed for Real Madrid in a record transfer deal of £85million, his every movement has been scrutinised by the world's media. As with most successful or expensive sports personalities, the media circle like vultures waiting for that chink in the armour as they clamour for the story that will fill column inches and sell papers.
A product of Southampton's academy, which produced Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana and more recently Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw, Bale caught the eye for being a left back who could score the odd free kick. When he turned 18 years of age, Tottenham Hotspur took advantage of Southampton's plight and brought him to White Hart Lane for a reported £7million. After struggling with injuries he was moved to left midfield, but it took him two years to play in his first victory. In fact, it took 25 games before he came on as a sub in Tottenham Hotspur's 5-0 victory over Burnley.
As he started to develop physically, he also began to develop as a world class player. In 2012 he was given free licence and started to take games by the scruff of the neck, scoring regular goal of the month candidates, including a last minute winner against West Ham. He scored 21 goals in 33 Premier League matches, including a spell of 10 goals in 10 matches, as he kept winning games by himself. The year culminated in him winning both the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year award. He followed these up with the Football Writer's Association Player of the Year.
After a dramatic transfer saga during the summer months, he finally signed for Real Madrid in a deal worth a record £85.3million, thus becoming the world's most expensive player. Not only is he now rubbing shoulders with the best players in the world, but he has also been nominated for Europe's most prestigious individual award - the Ballon D'Or.
The Spanish media's reaction to their new star has been mixed to say the least. After scoring in his debut against Villarreal, Spanish paper Marca ran with the headline, "Porque lo Bale". Inside, Hugo Cerezo wrote, "that's why this kid from Cardiff made his debut for Madrid after just three training sessions, because the great players are destined to have great starts, because Madrid's new No. 11 always dreamed of playing and scoring in white ... despite the draw at full time, Bale will have slept well, happy to have fulfilled his dream of playing for Real Madrid and scoring a goal. After all, the really, really lovely thing is not to be a star but to be a star for Real Madrid."
AS's cover ran with: "Bale scored! ... And Diego López saved." El País's headline noted, "Villarreal play the football, Bale scores the goal" as Real Madrid's goalkeeper had kept Bale from enduring an opening defeat.
Bale then missed the next few games with a "back injury", which caused a row between Real Madrid and the media over the seriousness of the injury. Marca had claimed that he had a slipped disc and needed surgery, but Real Madrid claimed that he had a "small chronic disc bulge" that was common amongst footballers. Marca countered this with evidence from a doctor that backed up their claim that the injury was more serious than the club were letting on and Dr Avelino Parajon said: "If Real Madrid have signed Gareth Bale knowing about this protrusion, they have committed an error."
Bale then became the scapegoat for Real Madrid's defeat to Barcelona in "El Clasico" as Marca labelled him "the worst performer", claiming that he does not have enough "spark" after playing 61 uneventful minutes against their rivals. The patience of the Spanish media was wearing thin as Marca's Ruben Jimenez criticised Bale for not getting himself fit during the international break, instead opting to play 32 minutes for Wales against Serbia.
Catalan newspaper El Pais continued to target Bale by saying that Madrid play better when Bale is not in the side. Three days later, Bale scored twice and had two assists as Real Madrid thrashed Sevilla 7-3, however, the media focused on Cristiano Ronaldo who scored a hat trick that night and still remains the darling of Real Madrid fans. That being said, AS compared Bale's first goal to "Rafael's forehand" and he did receive some positive press in many other media circles.
They say the course of true love never runs smooth and this can certainly be said of the relationship between Bale and the Spanish media, however, if he continues to score and create goals for Los Blancos then it wont be long before the Madrid fans and the media fall in love with the superstar from Cardiff.
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