Gareth Bale was unable to bid farewell to the Santiago Bernabéu. While Carlo Ancelotti had expressed his hopes that the Welsh forward would be given a good send-off, nobody would have been too surprised that his name was left off the team sheet for Real Madrid’s final league outing of the season and the team’s last home game. Some sections of the fans had hoped that Bale would at least make an appearance against Betis – at best, a late cameo or failing that, as an unused sub. That might have at least brought a sense of closure for both the player and fansgiving both the chance to wish each other well. Bale’s contract will expire at the end of next month, bringing to an end nine years with the club he joined for 101 million euros from Tottenham.
Bale has been trying to shake off a back problems during the past few weeks and didn’t even enter the squad list for the Betis game. Ancelotti confirmed in Thursday’s press conference that Bale had trained with the first team, telling reporters, “He’s still not at 100% and we haven’t drawn up the squad yet. Tomorrow, we’ll see if he’s on the bench. I have to leave two players in the stands tomorrow…” Bale’s problem with his back meant that he also missed Madrid league title celebrations with the fans at Cibeles. He also missed the Clásico against Barcelona on 20 March, a game he could have played as Benzema was out injured. Just a few days later, he completed the full 90 minutes of Wales’ World Cup qualifier against Austria – scoring twice to crown a superb individual performance.
Bale: the end of an era in Madrid
Bale was also unavailable for Real Madrid’s meeting with Espanyol when the team clinched the league with four games left to play. The spasms were so painful that he was unable to move, but he managed to send a congratulatory message to his team mates and the fans on social media.
Bale’s contract will expire on 30 June. Before then, Real Madrid have the Champions League final against Liverpool. In some ways, the No.11 was in a similar situation when the two clubs met in Kiev in 2018, Bale coming on as a second half sub to practically win the game single-handedly with a long-range strike and wonderful overhead-kick . It is highly unlikely that he will be given the chance to come on and be the hero of the hour again when Madrid face Liverpool in Paris next weekend. His last appearance in a competitive game was against Getafe on 9 April when he was brought on for the last quarter of an hour to play as a centre-forward.
His absence against Betis means that the Bernabéu will not be able to thank him for his contributions over the best part of a decade. And even though his time at Real Madrid was almost Kafka-esque at times, he played a major role in helping the to win four Champions League in five years.