What Gareth Bale thought was a funny joke, Real Madrid is not finding so amusing.
After Wales secured qualification to the Euro 2020 finals, the squad – with Bale front and center – posed with a banner that read “Wales, golf, Madrid. In that order.”
The phrase was made famous by former Real Madrid striker and director of football Pedja Mijatovic, who jokingly said the phrase on the radio referencing Bale’s assumed priorities in his career. It blew up and Wales fans began to sing songs and make signs. Bale was asked about it in the media and laughed it off as “a good bit of fun.”
So, after defeating Hungary on Tuesday, the squad posed with one of the flags, laughing while holding it up in front of the Real Madrid star.
The Spaniards have not taken it well. Real Madrid supporters have long been touchy about Bale’s perceived love for golf and the notion that he puts it before his club responsibilities. There has been a perceived media agenda against Bale in Spain, and the headlines ran with the image, claiming Bale was intentionally “mocking” Madrid while posing for the picture with the flag. A poll that ran in Spanish publication MARCA saw a majority of fans claim the photo displayed “a lack of respect for the club and fans” as Bale poked fun at the notion he dislikes playing for his club.
Previous comments of Bale’s only fed the beast, as he attempted to explain why playing for Wales was “different” than playing for his club, but the quotes were picked apart out of context, with the media looking to paint Bale as playing favorites. Fans in Spain have been insulted that Bale seems to enjoy playing for his country more, and Bale’s return from injury to play for Wales before Madrid has been salt in the wound.
This all certainly has the feel of a means to an end in Spain.