Being a Real Madrid player is a tough, old gig. You are playing for one of the most demanding clubs on the planet in one of the most undemanding leagues in terms of relative opposition. Being a world transfer-record-breaking Real Madrid player is even harder.
The already-daunting baggage that comes with being at the club is quadrupled due to the additional pressure of being the priciest player in the world. Gareth Bale now has to walk that walk, but at least a teammate in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo has been there before, and he may have some tips to help the newbie survive Madridista life.
6. The Santiago Bernabeu Support Is...Unsupportive
Other clubs have crazy fans who will shower an incoming footballer with trinkets upon their arrival and cheer every touch and shimmy out on the pitch. Not Real Madrid supporters, though.
Oh, no. This complicated and fairly traditional group who still hark for an old guard of Raul and Fernando Hierro largely watch games in silence, an eerie quiet punctuated by bursts of booing for players who are felt to be underperforming.
Karim Benzema has been a regular target of this treatment, even when scoring goals. Poor Diego Lopez is getting barracked simply for being better than Iker Casillas. Bale best remember that while thousands of fans came along to his presentation to cheer a few kick-ups, that is as good as it gets at the Bernabeu. Just ask Ronaldo, who only had fans singing his name after three years and about 7,000 goals for Real Madrid.
5. Do Not Say Anything to the Media Ever
Unless it is to trot out platitudes about being happy to have scored four goals against plucky opposition, Ronaldo rarely chats away to the press. Unless the footballer wants to get something off his chest, of course, which normally involves money and how much more he’d like to be earning. Bale best learn this technique.
With newspapers dedicated solely to sport in Spain, football news for around two hours a day on every TV channel and 24-hour sports radio stations, every syllable uttered is picked apart for hidden meanings, inferences and subtexts. A comment that “it was warm in Madrid today,” could easily be interpreted as a complaint over the local weather conditions and a sure sign that a swift return to England was on the cards.
4. One Goal Is Never Enough in La Liga
The reason why Ronaldo tends to bang in at least 40 goals a season with regular hat tricks is that this is the level of expectation in the Spanish game of a top forward.
This is not a top-flight division where bottom can give top a decent match. Bottom tends to lose 12-0 against the top. Anything less than that and at least a brace from Bale in most league games will be seen as a whopping failure. And heaven forbid the the forward fails to score for two games in a row. When that happens to Ronaldo, it is a national crisis.
3. Remember Who the Boss Is
One of the first announcements made by the Welshman at his presentation press conference showed what a smart cookie the footballer is despite coming from the Valleys. “Cristian Ronaldo is the boss,” exclaimed the forward, “the best player in the world.”
That was a wise move. That is not to say that Bale’s new Portuguese teammate is a head-chopping tyrant who demands blood tribute. It is just that Ronaldo may be feeling a little undervalued and unloved like a family dog facing the arrival of a new baby.
Gareth Bale is newer, therefore more exciting to supporters and media and is set to be the apple of the eye of the Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez. The former Spurs player best doff his cap, avoid direct eye contact with his teammate and keep remembering the mantra of who is the boss of the Santiago Bernabeu.
2. But Do Not Be Too Subservient to the Boss
As previously mentioned, being duly respectful and groveling toward Ronaldo is a fine plan, but this must not be taken too far. Bale must remember that he was the best player in the best league in the world. Ronaldo is merely the second-best player in the third-best league (author hides in corner covering head from stones).
The Welsh forward should be able to stand on his own two feet as a footballer and not go down the path of Guti, who adored David Beckham so much during the Englishman’s spell at Madrid that the midfielder dutifully copied the same hairstyle for a good three years.
1. Remember That There Is No ‘I’ in Team
Aside from the narcissism, hair gel, unnecessary step-overs and free-kicks blasted into the stands, one of the reasons that it took many Real Madrid fans to warm to Ronaldo was a lack of team ethic. However, this was not through any sense of selfishness but the feeling that Ronaldo had to win games on his own when times were tough. This saw too many long shots and failures to pass to players in better positions on goal.
Ronaldo’s game went on in leaps and bounds when realising that there were many other capable footballers in the team who could be just as handy at putting the ball in the back of the net. Bale must remember that he is no longer on a one man team in Tottenham anymore and that he has a lot more help by his side.
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