Biting Back: Gareth Bale's emerging as the Real deal in Madrid
When Gareth Bale turned his back on Manchester United to quit Spurs for Real Madrid, an injury hit start earned him the nickname Lladró from demanding Spanish supporters and their media.
You know those elegant porcelain pieces you admire in the best shops on your holidays on the Costas? Lovely to look at, very expensive but handle with care as the slightest touch can cause damage.
With humour as scathing as that, Bale will have known from the off the backlash any dip in form would bring and the pressure to constantly live up to his eye-watering £86million fee in a country crippled economically by unemployment, debt and austerity measures.
The eyes of all Spain are upon him, nowhere more than in the cauldron of El Clasico, Barcelona v Real Madrid tomorrow night. No wonder the English media continually link him with a belated move to Manchester.
But Bale has ridden it all out, the boos and the bouquets, and a new dynamic is now emerging at Madrid. Bale is the apple of the eye of El Presidente Florentino Perez, who signed him, and it is Cristiano Ronaldo's Lladró nose firmly out of joint as he showed with his furious reaction last weekend as Bale scored and Ronaldo waved his arms in frustration at not having scored the goal himself.
Do not be surprised if it is Ronaldo and not Bale who lands at Old Trafford this summer.