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Gareth Bale sparks angry reaction at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale has upset plenty of people around Real Madrid and in Spain over the international break.

Following the 2-0 win against Hungary on Tuesday, Bale, 30, celebrated Wales reaching EURO 2020 by singing “Wales. Golf. Madrid” with this teammates, while holding a flag which had the same message and “in that order” printed on it.

Safe to say that didn’t go down well in Madrid, with Bale’s critics, of which there are many, livid with his actions.

Did it needlessly poor fuel on the fire? Yes. Was it a bit of banter towards his situation for Bale? Yes.

It has already spoken about playing for Wales being more fun than playing for Real Madrid and many in the Spanish capital were surprised to see him play for Wales over the international break as his last game for Real was on Oct. 5 due to injury.

Real’s fans don’t like Bale and their former president Roman Calderon called his behavior “childish” as others said fans should demand he leaves in their next game against Real Sociedad at home on Saturday.

Here are a selection of the headlines across the Spanish newspapers, as Bale still has three years left on his current contract a Real and looks set to stay, despite Zinedine Zidane desperate to offload him in the summer.

Bale in hot water at Madrid over Wales banner

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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.

Unhappy in Madrid, Bale ‘more excited’ to play for Wales

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Thanks to the ongoing FIFA-mandated international break, life is currently pretty good for Gareth Bale, who says he “definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales” compared to when he’s playing β€” or not playing β€” for his club, Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sterling backs Gomez after boos were heard at Wembley ]

Bale confirmed on Friday what the entire world has known for a couple of years now: that he’s thoroughly unhappy at not being allowed to leave Madrid this summer; that he never truly adapted to his home since the summer of 2013; and that his on-field performance has suffered for those reasons, as well as his extensive injury history β€” quotes from the BBC:

“With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feeling more comfortable. I definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales.

“I’ve been with most of the players, especially the older ones, since we were in the Under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday.

“But it still doesn’t change what I give on the pitch. I always give 100 percent wherever I am, and that’s what I always strive to do.”

As for how Bale has been painted by the Spanish media, he says he only pays attention to the negative coverage when his friends since him “funny pictures or whatever they write,” but it’s clear he feels like an outsider and that’s a key reason he was so keen to leave the club and country when a(n even more) mega-money offer came from China this summer.

“I’ve heard some stories but I don’t really take notice. My friends tend to send me some funny pictures or whatever they write.

“I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me. On one, it said ‘triple bogey’ and I’ve never had a triple bogey. At least give me an albatross! It’s funny.”

Unfortunately for Bale, he’ll have to continue playing nice with manager Zinedine Zidane, until January at least.

Gareth Bale back on transfer watch after trip to London

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Gareth Bale‘s future is once again in doubt.

[ MORE: Latest La Liga roundup ]

The Welsh winger traveled to London with the permission of Real Madrid to see his agent this week, reigniting speculation about a possible departure after coach Zinedine Zidane said in July it would best for the player and the club to part ways.

Zidane has since backtracked and said Bale is an important player for him, but the damage was done to the public image of their relationship.

Bale was in the British capital on Tuesday and Spanish television broadcaster Cuatro filmed him arriving to see his agent, Jonathan Barnett. Barnett told Cuatro that their meeting was “private.”

When asked if Bale was happy at Madrid, Barnett said: “Ecstatic.”

Bale did not answer questions from journalists at the airport.

Bale has missed three matches with a left calf injury he picked up in a European Championship qualifier with Wales more than two weeks ago. Zidane did not include Bale in his lineup for Wednesday’s 5-0 win over Leganes.

Zidane also dropped the Welshman him from his squad for two matches before he was injured. Otherwise, he has scored two goals – both in a 2-2 draw with Villarreal – in seven appearances this season.

“A lot of things are said and we think that Bale is a player who is here, who puts in a lot of effort and trains well,” Zidane said Tuesday. “He’s important for this squad and for the club. When he’s not available, he’s not available because he’s got something and that’s it.”

Zidane said Bale had not told him why he needed to go to London and had received permission to do so directly from the club.

“He’s never talked about leaving,” Zidane said. “He stayed in the summer and it’s better for everyone. He’s here and he’s happy to be here. It’s impossible to lose the desire. I don’t think about offers coming in.”

Those words of support contrast with Zidane’s statements during the offseason when he said the club was close to transferring Bale and that it would be “the best for everyone.”

That move never materialized. There were rumors of a Chinese club willing to match or improve his annual salary of 15 million euros ($16.6 million). The other clubs, particularly the richest English teams, were considered the most likely candidates to offer a new destination for Bale.

Madrid paid a then world-record 100 million euros (then $132 million) for Bale to pry him from Tottenham in 2013. He has delivered some amazing goals on the biggest stages. He romped down the field to score the late winner against Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey, and his stunning bicycle kick for the first of his two goals in the 2018 Champions League final victory over Liverpool is one Madrid’s faithful will never forget.

Otherwise, his stint at Madrid has been plagued by nagging injuries and many fans have lost patience with his regularly uninspired performances.

Bale had his opportunity to claim the status as Madrid’s leader when Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus. Instead, he and the rest of his teammates have failed to replace the Portugal forward’s missing goals.

Now, following his London excursion, the pressure is back on Bale and Madrid to clarify their plans with the transfer window opening in two months.

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James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.