Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois Defends Gareth Bale's Spanish Fluency, Golf Hobby

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 30, 2019

, SPAIN - APRIL 24: (L-R) Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid, Gareth Bale of Real Madrid during the   Training Real Madrid on April 24, 2019 (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has defended team-mate Gareth Bale despite his negative portrayal in the Spanish media, saying neither his ability to speak Spanish nor his love of golf is a concern.

Bale, 30, has encountered frequent criticism during his six-year stay at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he has endured lengthy stints out injured and is regularly seen playing golf in his spare time.

Courtois told Sergio Fernandez of Marca that Bale "speaks better Spanish than people think." The Belgian added: "He could give an interview in Spanish perfectly well. I speak to him a lot, I also like golf."

The Belgian also defended his comrade's commitment to the club and said Bale "does everything to win matches," suggesting the media paint an unfair picture of the forward:

"They always go after him for the same things: golf, the language... I want to see him go out and give an interview in Spanish because he speaks very well in the dressing room with lots of team-mates and he understands it very well.

"But it's his thing if he prefers to speak English, it would only be to stop people saying these things (about his Spanish) and they can see that he's very devoted."

The Guardian's Sid Lowe explored Bale's most recent controversy in November, when he celebrated Wales' qualification for UEFA Euro 2020 and appeared behind a flag that read: "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order."

Real's dressing room appeared to take the gesture in their stride, and Marcelo even used Bale's golf controversy as inspiration for his "Secret Santa" gift, per The Spanish Football Podcast:

The Spanish Football Podcast @tsf_podcast

So Marcelo gave Bale a golf club in Real Madrid's secret santa! Lucas Vázquez given some weights (after dropping some on his foot the other week), Luka Jovic a Spanish dictionary, Brahim Diaz some kids' toys... https://t.co/LCSuEhnjL2

The joke didn't go down well in most Spanish media circles. Manager Zinedine Zidane told reporters in early December he refused to ban his star from playing golf, while Bale has encountered jeers from his own supporters in some fixtures since the incident.

Marcelo sparked a furore around Bale's Spanish fluency in February when he told Esporte Interativo (h/t AS) the Wales winger only spoke English in the dressing room.

Those comments didn't help his image in the Spanish press, and commentator Eduardo Alvarez told BBC 5 Live Sport in November the flag controversy served as "ammunition" to campaign against him:

BBC 5 Live Sport @5liveSport

'It will give them ammunition, I think he's burned a few bridges there' Spanish football journalist @Alvarez thinks Gareth Bale holding the 'Wales, golf, Madrid' flag has made him "almost as divisive as Mourinho" at Real Madrid. Listen here 👇: 📲⚽️ https://t.co/X748bYF10o https://t.co/Cd7qhtEzZL

Sport Witness suggested certain outlets and journalists were reacting after having the golf narrative turned against them by Bale:

Sport Witness @Sport_Witness

It's not too hard to get the impression some in the Spanish media are hurt because they started the 'golf' narrative against Bale and he turned it against them. https://t.co/rmcNlk5HEH

It's true the player could greatly enhance his reputation were he more forthcoming with his Spanish-speaking ability, though that move may now come across as little more than pandering to his critics.

Bale has featured in Real's last three league games and hopes to return to Zidane's starting lineup when they travel to Getafe in a Madrid derby on Saturday.