Ignore the rumours and the speculation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Gareth Bale is not going anywhere at the end of the season; he is not leaving Real Madrid. But that’s not to say he’s happy at the moment, not by a long chalk.
These are, as they say, the bad times. His agent, Jonathan Barnett, has pointed out one of the reasons of his poor performances. According to a report by John Percy in the Daily Telegraph, the player's agent says Bale's team-mates are not passing to him, and with just 16 touches of the ball in the match against Juventus—fewer than goalkeeper Iker Casillas had—he may have a point.
Except, of course, it’s not as simple as that. The stats may well say he is doing the running and is not being passed to, but what they won’t tell you is why.
The reality is the midfielders do not pass to him as often as they do to Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema (with the exception of his friend Luka Modric) and unfortunately that’s probably as much Bale’s fault as it is the other players themselves.
There are complaints from other players that he simply does not do what he is supposed to, does not pass either at the right time, or effectively enough, and he is making too many wrong choices on the pitch. That is not my opinion, but how he is perceived in the changing rooms.
You do not have to be a footballing genius to realise that on one of the greatest, most exalted stages of all, he has dropped his level; he is fluffing his lines. And he is much, much better than what we are seeing.
To be fair to him, I’m not convinced it’s all his fault, although I do firmly believe the solution to the problem lies with him.
I don’t think Ronaldo is helping matters, because in the ego-filled and ego-fuelled world that is the Santiago Bernabeu, no-one is going to be a bigger presence than him. Bale arrived at Madrid, despite all efforts to disguise the fact, as the most expensive player in the history of the game.
His current plight will hand the Portuguese goal machine a large helping of schadenfreude and hardly encourage him to give the Welshman a helping hand.
In the general scheme of things, Bale will be thinking to himself that despite his price tag, his obvious quality and undoubted skill, to return to the theatrical analogies he is a major star reduced to a cameo role; a Michelin-starred chef asked to prepare the vegetables.
Effectively he is trapped in a syndrome I call "little job, big player"—a situation that occurs far more frequently than you might think. When a player is asked to do something basic but fundamental, but thinks that—as the main star—it’s a job that should be done by others. Or he is not comfortable with.
But if you don’t do the little jobs well, especially in somewhere like the white-hot cauldron of the Bernabeu, then the only thing that will happen is that you will lose the confidence of your own players and will no longer be considered a big player.
Bale needs to take a long look at himself before casting a gaze at those around him.
If he does the little jobs to the very best of his ability, as Neymar has done at Barcelona, then just as we know that in the general scheme of things cream inevitably rises to the top, Bale will return to becoming the great player both he and we always knew he was.