Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has defended Gareth Bale after the forward was again the subject of boos from his own fans.
Bale was jeered by sections of supporters at the Santiago Bernabeu after he was substituted towards the end of Real’s 2-1 friendly victory over Galatasaray on Tuesday evening, their final warm-up game before beginning their Liga title push against Sporting Gijon this weekend.
Nacho and Marcelo scored the goals for Benitez but afterwards it was Bale's situation that the head coach was asked about. Since the middle part of last season there has been sustained criticism of Bale's place in the Madrid first team – a debate only heightened when the new coach announced that the former Tottenham star will play in a more central role this season.
Despite the whistles Benitez defended Bale's performance against the Turkish side - insisting the Welshman is an integral part of his plans and pointing out that he offers a different set of attributes to most of his team-mates.
"If you analyse Bale's movements, you'll see they give the team respite," Benitez told AS. "If he had scored against Galatasaray, people would be saying what a great game he had.
"Logically there will be debate over Isco, Gareth and James [Rodriguez]. We are looking to forge an understanding between them.”
He added: "Isco and James elaborate play between the lines, but not Gareth. He creates spaces and looks to makes runs behind the defence."
It sums up the idiocy of the situation that Bale is finding himself whistled in a non-competitive game, yet it also underlines the difficulty he will face in ever winning around a supporter base that has hardened against him - even if the reasons appear, to neutrals at least, somewhat hard to fathom.
Nevertheless it underlines how important this season will be for Bale. If Benitez's grand plan to move him into the centre proves effective, yielding goals and assists at a Ronaldo-esque rate, then it may yet salvage his status in the capital and restore him as the long-term successor to the Portuguese. If it does not, however, then the criticism will only get louder - and Bale may eventually decide the hassle is not worth staying another season for. A pivotal campaign gets off to an inauspicious start.