By David Williams
Gareth Bale has said he coped with his Real Madrid nightmare by learning not to take criticism too personally.
The Wales captain has revealed his coping strategy during his frustrating final few months in Spain – during which time he became a target for anger and derision among some sections of the club’s supporters and Spanish media – by shrugging his shoulders and smiling on through.
Despite having played a key role in Real winning four Champions League titles, Bale fell out of favour with manager Zinedine Zidane and made just 20 appearances last season as he was frozen out by the Frenchman.
“No I don’t have any regrets, no,” Bale said in an interview with Sky Sports. “I just try and play football, that’s all I can do and everything else that’s said externally is out of my control.
“As I said, I have no regrets of what I’ve done, whatever anyone else has said, that’s up to them. I know my opinion of myself and my family know exactly what I am, so that’s all I’m worried about.
“Obviously going into a different culture, a different country, I’ve had to grow up as a person, never mind a footballer.
“You just learn how to deal with the situations that you’re in. Obviously I’ve been in immense pressure situations. I’ve had people on the pitch whistling in the stadium to me.
“So yeah I’ve just learned how to deal with those type of things, to not take it too seriously, take it too much to heart, and yeah, just get on with it.
“It’s football – something that you love doing and you just need to give your best and sometimes that’s all you can do.”
Tottenham finished sixth in the Premier League last season, and with Bale’s arrival the club will be aiming for a return to the top four and Champions League qualification.
After a surprise defeat at home to Everton in their season opener, Spurs overcame a lacklustre first-half performance to thrash Southampton 5-2 on Sunday, giving them some much-needed momentum to take into this weekend’s match against Newcastle.
“Of course when you come into any club you want to do well, you want to help the team as much as you can,” Bale said.
“No I don’t have any regrets, no.
“I just try and play football, that’s all I can do and everything else that’s said externally is out of my control.”
Gareth Bale says the “immense pressure” at Real Madrid has helped him grow up.
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) September 25, 2020
“We have a great team here now with a great squad. They’ve been doing great. Obviously in the time that I’ve gone away they’ve gone on and on and obviously reached the Champions League final, the club’s got a new stadium, the club itself is better, they’re doing better in the Premier League every year.
“So I just want to add to that. I want to try and bring a bit more to the team and try and progress even more and keep pushing in the right direction.”
Bale is not expected to feature imminently for Spurs as he recovers from a knee injury suffered on international duty with Wales in early September, but he has already been thinking about his first appearance.
Asked what he is looking forward to most, Bale said: “Just playing. I think putting that Spurs shirt on again.
“Obviously it’s disappointing that the fans aren’t going to be there at the stadium for my first game back because I feel like the reception would have been incredible but just looking forward to playing football, playing with the team, doing as well as I can, helping the team and having a great season collectively.”