Former Real Madrid coach John Toshack says injuries are affecting what should be the best years of Gareth Bale’s career, and suggested that it may be advisable for his fellow Welshman to leave the European champions for a club where the demands are not quite so high.
Bale has won 11 trophies including three Champions Leagues and the 2016-17 La Liga title since joining Madrid in 2013 from Tottenham, although 18 different injuries mean he has missed about a third of his team’s games during his time at the club.
His name was absent from this week’s 30-man 2017 Ballon d’Or shortlist, a further blow in a week in which he watched from the stands due to another calf problem as Wales failed to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Ex Wales boss Toshack, who gave Bale his senior international debut back in 2006, was asked on radio show “El Larguero” whether he felt all the injuries meant the forward was losing his status as one of Europe’s top players.
“Probably, yes,” Toshack said. “There is no doubt that although Madrid have won things, the Champions League, La Liga too, it must be a terrible frustration. He has missed so many games.”
Asked if it would make sense for Bale to move to another club at this point in his career, Toshack did not reply directly but pointed out that it was difficult to impress at the Bernabeu if you are often not fully fit.
“The people at Madrid would know more about that,” he said. “Gareth made his debut with me at 17. Now he is 28. These three or four years should be the best of his life. The demands at Madrid are very, very high. And if you are less than 100 percent physically, it is even more difficult again.”
Madrid’s three-man attack of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, central to the team’s recent successes, has been threatened recently by the emergence of younger stars such as Isco and Marco Asensio. Toshack said he felt the best days of the “BBC” were behind them.
“I believe the BBC — Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale — has a lot of problems now,” he said. “Others are coming through. For one reason or another I don’t believe we will see much of the BBC from now on.”
Toshack discounted an idea raised in the local press that there could be a psychological factor involved given Bale’s history of regular problems and uncertainty over the exact nature of his current injury.
However, he did speculate that being often played out of position by Madrid on the right wing may not have helped.
“Either you are injured, or you’re not,” Toshack said. “If the tests say he has a problem, and the player cannot run, then it is not a psychological issue. This has been going on for years. I remember talking to Gareth years ago about his way of hitting the ball, with the outside of his left foot.
“Gareth has always played on the left. If he is now playing on the right, I don’t know. I have never seen Roberto Carlos, [Giacinto] Facchetti or [Paolo] Maldini on the right wing. Maybe this has something to do with it, I don’t know. He has had many problems with injuries, for sure.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan