Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is bemused by his team's fans' attitude towards Gareth Bale after they booed the Welsh forward during Saturday’s 3-0 La Liga victory over Athletic Bilbao.
When quizzed on why a player who has won four Champions Leagues in five seasons in Madrid – including scoring decisive goals in two of the finals – is given such a hostile reception by fans Zidane said, “I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t understand it.”
Bale came on as a substitute after being left out from the start for the second consecutive game by Zidane and irked the Bernabeu faithful by missing a one-on-one chance.
The reaction was in stark contrast to the one that greeted Isco, who came on to the pitch at the same time as Bale to much delight from the stands.
For his part, Bale shrugged off missing the presentable opportunity by unselfishly teeing up Karim Benzema for his hat-trick but that did not saved him from a mauling by local media on Monday.
"The intention is to sell him, but there’s no offers forthcoming," read the front page of Marca, accompanied by a picture of the 29-year-old Bale looking sullen.
"They’re now open to the idea of loaning him out," the paper continued. The same newspaper reported recently that Chelsea's Belgian forward Eden Hazard will be signed to take Bale’s place in the squad.
A scathing opinion piece in the paper went further.
“Madrid, or rather their president, have been procrastinating with Bale. He finished last season as a substitute for not playing well enough and it will happen again this season,” it said, omitting to mention Bale's two goals, including a stunning overhead kick, in last year's Champions League final with the game finely poised.
“He keeps on saying ‘good morning’ rather than ‘buenos dias’ when he arrives at the training ground; that’s if he even says anything," Marca said.
“The thing is that Bale’s lack of sporting value is also now on a par with his lack of economic value. He’s a very expensive player and given the way football is, there’s many players who are a level below salary wise who contribute a lot more.”
In 2016 Bale was given a new deal through to 2022 that made him the third-best paid player in world football, but injuries – he has missed 86 games since joining the club - and a perceived failure to assimilate with Spanish culture have drawn criticism.
“The club aren’t too optimistic about being able to sell him so are willing to listen to a loan offer,” Marca said.
“They want to rid themselves of Bale’s salary, or at least a part of it and add an option to buy like they did with James Rodriguez to Bayern.”