Until Gareth Bale twitched in the final minutes of Wales’ 2-1 win over Austria in the 2022 World Cup play-off semi-final, his shocking lack of playing time for his club was barely noticed.
Once again, the Real Madrid attacker was back to his best form to help his country on Thursday at Cardiff’s raucous stadium, scoring two stunning goals that put Wales just one game away from qualifying for their first World Cup since 1958.
Reaching a World Cup with his national team is one of the few goals left for Bale to achieve after a career full of trophies.
The Welshman, four-time champion of the Champions League and two-time champion of La Liga with Real Madrid, pushed his team to new goals, reaching the semi-finals of the Eurocup in 2016 and the round of 16 at Eurocopa 2020.
And yet, inexplicably, one of the highest-paid players in the world might not play a single minute of professional football until he rejoins his teammates in about three months.
Bale has played a total of 77 minutes for Real Madrid since his last appearance for Wales in November, and has done little to assuage criticism from the Madrid press since that match.
The 32-year-old was accused of a lack of commitment and professionalism by the Madrid press, after sitting out last weekend’s match against Barcelona, which Real Madrid lost 4-0, and declaring himself fit days later. to play for Wales.
“I’m not sending a message to anyone,” he told Sky Sports of his celebration by kissing his country’s crest on Thursday. “It’s a waste of my time. It’s disgusting and everyone should be ashamed.”
– Champions League winner –
Bale’s eight years with Real Madrid have been filled with magical moments, such as the acrobatic goal in the Champions League final against Liverpool in 2018.
But for most of his time in Spain, Real Madrid fans have been frustrated by his physical problems and inability to display the same form he achieves with his country.
Any doubt about Bale’s priorities was dispelled when he celebrated qualifying for Euro 2020 in November 2019 with a flag declaring: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order”.
Since then, he has been nothing more than an occasional player for the Spanish team, and last season he was loaned back to Tottenham, a move that is suspected to have been motivated by Bale’s desire to reach the European Championship in form.
During this loan, Bale failed to show his potential at the club where he became a superstar, but it helped him arrive prepared for the continental tournament and lead his team to the round of 16 (eliminated by Denmark after losing 4-0).
The Welshman’s lucrative contract with Real Madrid will finally end at the end of the season. His next move could be dictated depending on whether or not he has to prepare for World Cup-2022 in November.
The ‘Dragons’ will once again have home field advantage, and will play at home in the play-off final against the winner between Scotland and Ukraine in June.