Inside La Liga: White noise at Los Blancos

La Liga returned from the international break to the sound of Real Madrid’s duelling galacticos Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Inside La Liga: White noise at Los Blancos

The week’s soap opera began when Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett gave a very self-important interview to The Guardian, where he spoke about unspecified “resentment” around the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu as Bale was replacing Ronaldo as the world’s best player.

Barnett also claimed that the two superstars were “complete opposites” as his client was not interested in being “the best model in the world or the best underwear seller.” Such candid comments were unsurprisingly pounced upon by the Madrid-supporting media. ‘Mad Madridista’ Tomas Roncero’s riposte in AS was headlined — ‘Barnett, why don’t you just shut up?’ Roncero’s column also hinted that Bale’s ego had been inflated by Blancos president Florentino Perez suggesting that the 26-year-old would win the Ballon D’Or “once Ronaldo was gone”.

That brought us to Tuesday lunchtime, where Ronaldo received his record fourth ‘Golden Shoe’ as Europe’s top scorer during 2014/15, when he notched a career best 48 La Liga goals.

The 30-year-old spoke from the podium about winning “a fifth and a sixth” Golden Shoe, and afterwards told Marca that he felt he would be playing at the top level well past the end of his current Madrid contract.

“I want to play five or six more years, and to try and keep the level of recent seasons,” Ronaldo said in pretty honest and logical sounding comments. “I’ve a contract up to 33, and as I have said many times my dream was to finish here at Real Madrid, because I feel good, useful, and want to stay.” The interview fed the feeling that Ronaldo, and his agent Jorge Mendes, have already begun manoeuvres ahead of their next big deal.

“Nobody knows what will happen next year” the player himself said last month when asked about his future.

Meanwhile ‘sources close to’ Mendes in the UK press have been speculating that super-rich Paris Saint Germain are preparing a huge bid for next summer.

There was therefore plenty of attention on Bale as he returned to club training on Thursday. According to Radio Marca, he immediately approached Ronaldo to apologise for the ‘underwear’ comments, and was so upset with Barnett that he planned to end their 11-year relationship.

An AS reporter very close to Mendes reported that Ronaldo had accepted Bale’s apology and agreed to put the issue behind them. This turn of events was denied furiously by Barnett on Spanish radio on Thursday night — “it’s a disgusting and stupid made up story by a very, very bad journalist,” the Londoner told the Al Primer Toque programme.

Barnett [or his lawyers] also seems to have contacted Marca, who had earlier in the week had an exclusive Bale cover story from the Wales camp. They quickly buried the ‘break-up’ story and published a short piece on how client and player got along great and would continue working together for a long time.

On to Saturday’s Bernabeu clash with Levante, where Ronaldo was quiet apart from assisting the opener before hitting his 324th Madrid goal – passing Blancos legend Raul as the club’s record scorer.

Bale had a quieter day — being taken off at half-time, to rest following his exertions with Wales and ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League game at Ronaldo’s potential suitors PSG.

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