Gareth Bale has become such a peripheral figure at Real Madrid at this point that he is even being left out of squad for the biggest games of the season.
The Welshman has once again been excluded from Zinedine Zidane’s list, this time for Saturday’s crunch derby with Atlético Madrid.
Bale was always a regular fixture for the big games against Barcelona, Atlético and in the Champions League. But even that now seems a thing of the past for him.
During this busy January period for Madrid, which has seen them play two Super Cup games in Saudi Arabia, two Copa del Rey and three LaLiga fixtures, Bale has only featured for 142 minutes. Fifty two of those minutes came against Unionists in the last-16 of the Copa, where the Welshman scored for the first time since September 1 (a goal that his teammates celebrated more than he did).
The official excuse for this loss of prominence was first the chest infection he come down with just before the team departed for Saudi Arabia, and then the sprained ankle he suffered in Salamanca – more firewood for his extensive injury record.
When the team returned from Saudi Arabia, Bale trained normally, but was then left out of the squad by Zidane for Sevilla. Last Friday, it was more of the same. Madrid’s number 11 trained with the rest of the squad with no problems but still found himself excluded from Zidane’s 19-man list, meaning the Welshman’s omission is more down to a technical decision than a fitness issue.
The French coach has continued to back Bale in public. “Gareth is one of ours and I will always defend my players,” he stated before traveling to Zaragoza last week. But the truth is that nowadays Zidane feels comfortable dispensing of Bale completely, even when the job at hand is to attack a defence like Atlético.