By Phil Blanche, PA
Gareth Bale has launched a furious tirade at the Spanish media, saying attacks like those aimed at him this week could push stressed athletes “over the edge”.
Bale was branded a “parasite” by media outlet Marca and accused of “sucking” Real Madrid’s money, despite him helping them win 14 trophies – including four Champions League titles – during his nine-year stint at the Bernabeu.
He responded to media criticism of missing Sunday’s El Clasico between Real and Barcelona by scoring two brilliant goals in Wales’ 2-1 World Cup play-off win over Austria on Thursday.
— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) March 25, 2022
After the game he said comments in Spain about him were “disgusting” and that the publication “should be ashamed of themselves”.
Bale took to Twitter on Friday to criticise the “slanderous, derogatory and speculative journalism” and complain that such reporting had a huge impact on the mental health of athletes.
He wrote: “At a time when people are taking their own lives because of the callousness and relentlessness of the media, I want to know, who is holding these journalists and the news outlets that allow them to write articles like this, accountable?
“Fortunately I have developed a thick skin during my time in the public spotlight, but that doesn’t mean articles like these don’t cause damage and upset personally and professionally to those at the receiving end of these malicious stories.
“I have witnessed the toll the media can take on people’s mental and physical health.
“The media expect superhuman performances from professional athletes, and will be the first to celebrate with them when they deliver, yet instead of commiserating with them when they show an ounce of human error, they are torn to shreds instead, encouraging anger and disappointment in their fans.
“The everyday pressures on athletes is immense, and it’s as clear as day, how negative media attention could easily send an already stressed athlete, or anybody in the public eye over the edge.”
Bale is in the final few months of his Real contract and is set to leave the club he joined from Tottenham in 2013 for a then world-record fee of £85million.
The 32-year-old was hailed as a hero in Madrid during his early years in Spain.
Bale scored three times in Champions League finals, including a memorable double in Real’s 3-1 win over Liverpool in 2018, and has over 100 goals for the club.
But Bale’s relationship with Real fans and the Madrid media has soured amid his well-documented fitness issues.
Bale spent last season on loan at Spurs and has started just once in club football since the end of August, with supporters and the media in Spain complaining that he is more interested in playing for Wales than Real.