Barcelona: Gareth Bale has made his priorities clear. Now Real Madrid will get their turn.
First comes his home country of Wales.
Second is a round of golf.
Third is his job of playing professional football for millions of euros for one of the world’s most glamorous and successful clubs.
Bale faces his first potential match for Madrid on Saturday since publicly mocking his club by celebrating Wales’ qualification for the 2020 European Championship behind a banner that read “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order.”
The banner was a direct response to criticism of him by former Madrid player Predrag Mijatovic, who said on sport talk radio that Bale put Wales and golf before Madrid. But instead of ignoring the comment by the pundit, Bale appeared to embrace it and turn it into a joke.
That has made many in Spain wonder how many more chances Bale will receive to contribute to the third-most important commitment in his life.
Bale played in both of Wales’ European qualifiers this past week, providing an assist to help beat Hungary 2-0 in a winner-takes-all showdown in Cardiff on Tuesday. That was followed by his peculiar celebration at the expense of Madrid.
Before his appearances with his national side, Bale missed six straight matches for Madrid. The club said he was unavailable due to a nagging calf injury.
If Bale is not in Zinedine Zidane’s squad for Saturday’s match against Real Sociedad the injury claim will be hard to sustain. And, if he does play, Bale cannot expect a warm reception from the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium crowd.
The reactions to Bale’s banner ranged from anger to pure puzzlement at just why a player would poke fun at the club that his paying his annual salary of €15 million.
Whatever his reasons, the episode will surely widen the chasm between him and Zidane, who last summer said Madrid was close to selling Bale and that his exit would be best for all. That move never materialised and Bale stayed, but only to contribute erratically.