Belfast Telegraph

Wales v Portugal: Bale wants to send Ronaldo on holiday early

Super man: Gareth Bale has played a massive part in driving his side into the quarter-finals in France
Super man: Gareth Bale has played a massive part in driving his side into the quarter-finals in France

By Ian Herbert

There was a predictable line of humour heading Gareth Bale's way before he took his leave of the Bernabeu and headed off for his big adventure at the European Championships with Wales.

"I remember Toni Kroos saying we'd only have three games, so it would be nice to meet him in the final," revealed Bale.

This was a variation on a very old theme, as any long-suffering Wales player like Bale will tell you.

The stick was unremitting: "when we used to lose and when we were 100th in the world. 'You have nine weeks holiday instead of two.' Just the normal stuff," he reflected with a wide grin.

These disclosures came in response to the question of whether he and Cristiano Ronaldo, whom Bale finds himself up against in the Lyon semi-final tomorrow night, had discussed the tournament before going their separate ways in May.

The flat 'No' Bale offered in response spoke volumes for the fact that there is something less than love in their relationship.

Bale has never been the life and soul of the team in the Spanish capital.

He'll turn up at the dinner parties which are a part of the Real Madrid social circuit but generally leaves them early, with Kroos the only one who is even more peripheral to that side of life.

The Spanish full-back Dani Carvajal is the one to whom Bale has most affinity, but few relationships seem as chilly as his and Ronaldo's.

This discussion certainly revealed an attachment to Real's Portuguese defender Pepe, whose thigh muscle strain prevented him training on Tuesday and renders him a doubtful for Stade de Lyon.

"He's a very professional athlete and a great man," Bale said. "He's been very good with me. It'll be a big loss but I'm sure he'll do everything he can to get fit."

Yet on Ronaldo, there was nothing. No conversation between the pair since they'd progressed to a semi-final.

An embarrassed shrug when Bale was asked by a Portuguese journalist to compare their respective free-kick styles. ("Different feet for a start. He has his own style and I have mine. I don't know what else to say.") And no suggestion that he had advised Chris Coleman how to cope with 'CR7' in south-east France.

In all, Bale was asked 11 questions about his relationship with Portugal's talisman and the only one which elicited the hint of an answer was on why his Real team-mate (left) might have recently thrown a cameraman's microphone in a lake. "I'm not sure. I can't comment on what he does or how he's feeling," Bale said. Bale's own state of mind is less of a mystery. It's become part of the routine Wales have in place that two days out from a game he will sit down to talk, and conversation was by no means running dry.

Wales are actually enjoying being here, with an air of collective mirth revolving around the fact that Joe Ledley - who evidently hadn't anticipated still being here on the Brittany coast with Wales so deep into the tournament - had planned to get married on Saturday.

Had any of the team been invited? "No. None of us," Bale replied. "Well none of us are going now so it makes no difference!"

Bale certainly seemed to have more confidence that his season would not be over, come next Sunday.

Behind the smiles, there has been a hard competitive intent, illustrated by his request that Real Madrid physio Jaime Benito, a confidante and friend according to Spanish press, be at the Welsh camp to work with him.

And Bale might well still be here on Sunday, having the last laugh on Kroos, the Real Madrid team-mate he can actually call a friend.

Wales v Portugal

Euro 2016 semi-final: Lyon, Tomorrow, 8pm

Belfast Telegraph