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Jose Mourinho shouldn’t be surprised Gareth Bale is a shadow of his former self

Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.

It’s a simple six-word mantra but one for which Gareth Bale’s seven-year spell with Real Madrid will be as well remembered as for the 13 trophies he helped the club win.

Never mind the fact there were major goalscoring contributions along the way as Real scooped four Champions League titles, two La Liga crowns, three Club World Cups and two Super Cups during his time there.

Oh, and a Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espanya as well.

Those feats meant little, if anything, to those Madristas who ultimately saw the Welshman as an imposter, someone more inclined to be honing his skills on the fairways of Ciudad Grupo Santander than the club’s Ciudad Real Madrid training complex.

Jose Mourinho said the injury which kept Bale out of the FA Cup defeat by Everton was ‘not obvious’

By the time Bale returned to Tottenham in September, his relationship with the Bernabeu faithful had long since grown toxic.

As it had with his manager Zinedine Zidane.

Which was why so many people were willing to buy into the notion that he’d be rejuvenated back in the bosom of north London and that he’d bring that trophy-winning mentality to the dressing-room that Spurs were still so clearly lacking.

It was supposed to be win-win for the club and the player, but ultimately it has proved nothing of the sort given that, on the pitch, Bale simply hasn’t delivered.

Wales fans poked fun at their Real Madrid counterparts, who always claimed their club was third on Bale’s list of priorities

In the changing-room, he is a popular figure, and there’s no doubt the rest of Jose Mourinho’s squad admire what he has achieved in the game and lean on him for advice.

But Mourinho has been dropping little hints of dissatisfaction with Bale for some time now and his claim on Wednesday that the injury which forced him to miss the 5-4 defeat by Everton was ‘not obvious’ was proof positive that the Portuguese’s patience is now wearing thin.

Mourinho should have seen it coming, though, because the verbal beating Bale had taken for so long in Madrid was always going to have taken a toll.

Bale and Zinedine Zidane rarely saw eye to eye at Real Madrid

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He now looks like a man whose head is no longer in the game, whose only real injury is to his confidence and desire to play football.

Once that goes, it doesn’t matter how much ability you have, you will only ever be a shadow of the player you once were.

The question it all poses for Bale now is — what next?

The remaining three months of his loan will amble along as the previous five have and then he has one more year left in Madrid.

You’d imagine it would suit all parties to pay him up and then, unless there’s a crazy-money offer from China or the Middle East, perhaps finally he will be given all the time he wants to dedicate himself to the golf course.

It’s not like he has to wait for courses to reopen, either, given he has three championship holes in his garden in Wales.

There will be offers from elsewhere but they will have to be spectacular to tempt a man who will retire with something in the region of £200million in the bank.

At 31, a lot of people will believe that’s a huge shame, that he has wasted five or six years at the end of his football lifespan, but some careers are sprints, not marathons.

And no one should lose sight of the fact that, whatever has happened in the last couple of years, Bale has been one of the finest footballers these isles have ever produced.




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