Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane called on fans to stop booing Gareth Bale following the Wales star’s return to La Liga action on Saturday.
Bale came on in the second half of the 3-1 win over Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu and was greeted by an unhappy chorus from sections of the crowd.
Although some fans applauded the player, Bale was then subjected to jeers with every touch of the ball as Madrid saw out a win that moved them level on points with La Liga leaders Barcelona.
It was Bale’s first appearance for Madrid since October and came at the end of a week in which he risked the wrath of Madrid fans and media by celebrating Wales’ Euro 2020 qualification near a banner that read: “WALES. GOLF. MADRID…IN THAT ORDER”.
The slogan originates from a chant by Wales supporters that pokes fun at perceptions of Bale among the Spanish press, who have accused the former Tottenham player of pushing Madrid down his list of priorities.
Zidane, who was pleased with Bale’s performance, accepts he cannot control fan reactions but called for the player to be supported for the rest of 2019-20.
“I hope this isn’t constant this season. We want the fans to be with us from beginning to end, but we can’t control that,” he told reporters.
“The fans have the right to do what they want, but I ask that they applaud everyone. I focus on the game and the victory, and Bale came into the game very well.
“I haven’t spoken with him; I’ve only congratulated him.
“I can’t say if it’s unfair or not. Everyone can say what they want. We need our fans. After that, we can’t control what happens.
“There is too much noise with Bale. He wants to be with us and he wants to do well. That’s why we don’t want to talk too much. He is part of the group and wants to play like everyone else.”
Madrid fell behind when Willian Jose scored after just two minutes following an error from captain Sergio Ramos, but they fought back through goals from Karim Benzema, Federico Valverde and Luka Modric.
“I’m happy. We didn’t start well with the ball – we were very slow. Then, the end of the first half was very good and the start of the second, too,” said Zidane.
“We’re happy because there was a very good team facing us. We’re happy for the three points.”