MADRID, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Cristiano Ronaldo stole the headlines once again for Real Madrid following his outstanding performance and stunning overhead kick which gave his side a 3-0 win away to Juventus on Tuesday night to virtually assure their place in the semifinals of the Champions League for yet another season, but Ronaldo's display also served to highlight the problems of another of his companions: Gareth Bale.
The Welshman, who remains Madrid's record signing, must have been expecting to start in Turin after starring with two goals in his side's 3-0 win over Las Palmas at the weekend, but instead he found himself watching from the dugout for the full 90 minutes as Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio were chosen to replace Karim Benzema and Isco ahead of him.
When asked about the decision, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane made light of the issue, saying that Bale was "not at all," far from the role he had been bought for.
"He hasn't played in this game, but he has played in others...there is a derby (against Atletico Madrid) on Sunday and he has to be ready," said Zidane.
However, the Madrid boss is fooling nobody with those words: Sunday's Madrid derby is likely to be the most decaffeinated derby in recent years , with Real Madrid 13 points behind Liga Santander leaders FC Barcelona and focused on winning the Champions League, while Atletico are nine points off the top of the table and looking to get into the last four in the Europa League.
Although both sides would like to finish the season above their neighbors, that is clearly of secondary importance over the possibility of winning an European title, and if Bale is going to play in a game which is of secondary importance, that speaks volumes about his current role in the team.
A Spanish TV reporter close to Madrid President, Florentino Perez, used his show on Monday to criticize Bale despite his weekend brace, highlighting the fact that Madrid want to sell a player of undoubted talent , but who is seen as too fragile due to a long line of muscle injuries.
In a dressing room with a powerful work ethic, some of Bale's teammates also wonder whether he is too 'precious' about avoiding injury and prefers not to play when they would play through the pain barrier, while his continued inability (or refusal) to learn any more than a basic level of Spanish after almost four years in Spain has also been a barrier to his full integration in the squad.
Despite his problems in Madrid, there is no doubt that Bale is still a wanted man in the English Premier League and Manchester United pushed strongly to try and sign him last summer, offering a high fee and tempting wages, but although Real Madrid would like to sell him in order to buy a new striker this coming summer, there is a major problem: Bale himself.
Even though he is not first choice in big games and questioned by some of his companions, Bale says he is happy in Spain. He likes the sun, he likes the warn weather, the lifestyle and the local golf courses and his family are settled in their luxury home on the outskirts of the capital.
That is not to say he will be at Real Madrid next season, and if Real Madrid get their way, he probably won't be, but it will have to be a big offer to tempt Bale away from his current home, that and his current club making it very clear between now and the end of August that he no longer has a place with them. In short, it will take both the carrot and the stick: the stick from Madrid to get him to move and a very tempting carrot to show him life can be sweet (and profitable) elsewhere.