According to a common narrative, Gareth Bale is more interested in playing golf than playing football – but his captain has no issues with what he does outside of club time.
Bale had everything but his ponytail out of the exit door over the summer before a proposed move to China collapsed and he stayed at Real Madrid.
The 30-year-old has since managed to work his way into Zinedine Zidane’s good books and has arguably been Real’s best player so far this season, scoring twice in their last fixture – a 2-2 draw against Villarreal.
Bale has been pictured numerous times playing golf outside of his day job – he plays off a handicap of five and has a three-hole course for a garden back in Wales – but his skipper Sergio Ramos has no problem with his commitment.
“I think Bale’s a great player and he’s been really important for the club in the years he’s been with us. You find many things in the press. Some are true, some are not. We live in this world and we have to try to be above all that,” Ramos told the Daily Mail while promoting his new personal documentary.
“Regarding what has been said about Gareth, I think time puts everything in place. Regardless of what each player does in his personal life, I think it should be respected and not even talked about. We’re free to do what we want with our free time.”
Ⓒ @SergioRamos— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) September 8, 2019
🙌14 years at @RealMadrid... and 20 titles
💫 4x Champions League
🌐 4x Club World Cup
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Bale’s good form has not coincided with a return to prominence for Real, who have kicked off their season with just one win from three games.
Zidane has yet to recapture the magic that saw him lead the club to three consecutive Champions League titles in his first stint as manager, but Ramos claims the France legend has returned an even better coach.
“He remains the same person. He keeps his essence as a manager. He has more experience, explained Ramos. “I would sum up in essence he is the same person, but better because he has more experience.’
Sergio Ramos showcased some stunning backheel volley flicks, while his Spain team-mates Thiago Alcantara, Mario Hermoso, Dani Ceballos and Rodri also stylishly kept the ball in the air during training on Wednesday.
Spain beat Romania 2-1 in Bucharest on Thursday when Euro 2020 qualifying resumed and now face the Faroe Islands in Gijon on Sunday.
‘La Roja’ have won all five of their Group F qualifying matches so far, in a group which also contains Sweden, Norway and Malta.
Watch Ramos and friends show off their skills above:
Gareth Bale has broken his silence on his difficult summer at Real Madrid by saying he feels stronger than ever.
Bale looked set to leave Real for a big-money move to China this summer, only for the deal to collapse at the last minute.
The 30-year-old Wales captain admitted the situation was not ideal, but dismissed it as being the most difficult time of his career by saying he recalled “not playing for a year under Harry Redknapp” at Tottenham.
Bale, speaking ahead of Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifier at home to Azerbaijan, was frozen out by Real manager Zinedine Zidane at the end of last season.
The situation came to a head in July when Zidane said he hoped a deal for Bale could be struck soon “for everyone’s sake”, prompting an angry response from the Welshman’s agent Jonathan Barnett who labelled the Frenchman “a disgrace”.
The planned move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning collapsed and Barnett said there would be “no makeshift deals” to get Bale out of Madrid.
Following injuries to Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio, Bale has started Real’s opening three league games and, on Sunday, he scored his first goals since March 16 with a brace in the 2-2 draw at Villarreal.
“It’s not been ideal, but I have been here before,” Bale said. “I know how to deal with it.
“But I wouldn’t say it’s the worst time of my career. I remember not playing for a year under Harry Redknapp.
“I have kept my head down, kept grinding through everything.
“I had a good pre-season in terms of training – not so much in games – then started the season well. Things in football, I know, can turn quickly. It’s a matter of time always.”
Bale has been heavily criticised by the Madrid media for failing to speak Spanish and not interacting with the squad at the Bernabeu.
Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois appeared to make life more difficult for Bale last season when he said he did not attend a players-only dinner because “he goes to bed at 11pm”.
The Belgium international also said the players called Bale “The Golfer” because of his well-documented love for playing the game.
But Bale said he was happy with the nickname, saying: “I am a golfer. Have you not seen the pictures?
“I spoke to him (Courtois) about it and he said it as a joke. People took it out of context, but I’m very happy with the nickname to be honest. It’s a great one.
“Football is my number one sport. I’m paid to do it and I always give my best. Golf is a hobby, like anyone else would have a hobby.
“There is nothing wrong with having a round. People make a lot of it, but a lot of footballers play it and it’s one thing I really enjoy. It keeps me calmer off the pitch and gives me time away from football, which is nice.”
Wales are looking to their talisman to revive their Euro 2020 qualification hopes after back-to-back June defeats to Croatia and Hungary.
Bale was out-of-sorts in those games and, asked if he felt more settled now, he replied: “I suppose so… the transfer window is closed now!
“I don’t think mentally it affected me at all, but maybe not playing for four, five, six weeks coming into those games, physically, I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
“It was a bit frustrating, but those games are over now and we have to forget about them and look to the future.
“Now it’s a must-win – we need to win and get back on track. That’s what we aim to do.”