Israel coach Eli Guttman has claimed Gareth Bale cares more about Wales than Real Madrid ahead of his side’s crunch Euro 2016 qualifier against the Dragons.
Guttman’s astonishing claim comes on the back of Real Madrid’s dramatic slump in form and £85.3million world record signing Bale being booed by his own fans at the Bernabeu.
The European champions suffered their fifth defeat of 2015 when they lost 4-3 at home to German side Schalke on Tuesday night, and although that was enough for Real to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League 5-4 on aggregate, it did not spare the players from the wrath of angry Madridistas
Fans waved white handerkerchiefs – the traditional symbol of disgust at a bad performance – with Bale once again made the scapegoat for Real’s problems.
Bale was branded selfish and castigated in the Madrid media after choosing to shoot rather than pass to Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema against Espanyol in January and the Welshman has since suffered a dip in form with no goals or assists in his last eight games.
And now Guttman has added fuel to the fire by insisting Bale is saving his best for Wales’ visit to Israel on March 28, when the top two sides in Group B meet in Haifa.
“I feel that Bale is saving himself for the national team,” Guttman told sports.walla.co.il.
“The level of the miles he does and the level of his commitment to the national team is nothing like how he plays for Real Madrid.
“When they had a player injured [George Williams, who revealed he is out for six months after requiring knee ligament surgery] Bale was the first to [tweet] ‘get well soon’.
“They are like us, they are one group, but Bale is the one that gives them balance.”
Israel and Wales are the early surprise front-runners in Group B, with Guttman’s leaders having won their opening three games against Cyprus, Andorra and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Second-placed Wales are a point behind Israel and unbeaten after four games, and confidence is high in Chris Coleman’s squad after the goalless draw against group favourites Belgium in Brussels in November.
Guttman admits that stopping Bale is key to Israel staying top of the section, but he takes heart from keeping the Welshman’s Real team-mate Ronaldo off the scoresheet in a 3-3 draw in Tel Aviv two years ago.
In that 2014 World Cup qualifier, only an injury-time equaliser from Portugal full-back Fabio Coentrao prevented Israel from recording a famous victory.
“I remember how Sheran Yeini [Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder] was able to stop Ronaldo.” Guttman said.
“Whenever Ronaldo was on the side of the pitch, somebody else guarded him.
“We have to be close and don’t let Bale empty space. If we won’t do it, it will kill us.”