Real Madrid fans 'showed class' to departing Gareth Bale, says Wales boss Robert Page

Gareth Bale with the Champions League trophy
Gareth Bale has equalled Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of five Champions League titles
Uefa Nations League: Poland v Wales
Venue: Tarczynski Arena, Wroclaw Date: Wednesday, 1 June Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales DAB and MW, BBC Radio Cymru 2, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text online. Highlights on BBC Wales.

Gareth Bale deserves the respect of Real Madrid fans as he leaves the club, his Wales manager Robert Page says.

Bale won a joint-record fifth Champions League title on Saturday, albeit having barely featured this season.

After facing withering criticism from fans and the Spanish media in the past, the Wales captain was applauded as Real celebrated at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

“They [Real fans] showed class and rightly so for what he’s achieved for that football club,” said Page.

“You look back to what he’s done, scoring winners in Champions League finals and in the manner in which he’s done it, he deserves all the plaudits, absolutely.

“What an achievement for him personally. To be a part of that group of people, that team that’s achieved that, is phenomenal. Not many players can say they’ve done that, so credit to him for that.”

Bale’s initially glittering but recently fractious nine-year stay at Real will end when his contract, worth an estimated £600,000 per week, expires this summer.

After celebrating Saturday’s win over Liverpool with his team-mates in Madrid on Sunday, the 32-year-old has joined Wales’ squad as they prepare for Wednesday’s Nations League match in Poland, four days before Sunday’s World Cup play-off final against Scotland or Ukraine.

Wales are aiming to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1958 so, with such an important fixture on the horizon, Bale is unlikely to play many, if any, minutes against Poland.

“It’s risk and reward. The biggest game we’ve got is on Sunday and that’s no disrespect to Poland whatsoever,” said Page.

“We’re going to show them complete respect but we’d be mad to jeopardise our top, top players so, without answering it directly, you know where I’m going with it.

“He’s in good spirits as he always is. He was adamant he was meeting the players in Portugal [where Wales have been training] to fly to Poland with them, which speaks volumes. He wanted to be with the squad as soon as possible.

“He’s as humble as ever, he’s met up with the group and he’s been first class right away.”

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Bale has played only 20 minutes for Real since Wales last played in March, when his preparation for the World Cup play-off semi-final against Austria amounted to a mere two appearances for the Spanish and European champions since November.

However, on that occasion, he scored two brilliant goals to inspire Wales to victory and take them to within one win of World Cup qualification.

The likes of midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen are also expected to be rested against Poland, with Page set to select a young and inexperienced side.

Huddersfield Town winger Sorba Thomas could feature despite playing in Sunday’s Champions play-off final defeat by Nottingham Forest, whose forward Brennan Johnson has not travelled to Poland and will rejoin the Wales squad at their training base near Cardiff.

“The highs and lows of football, isn’t it? You’ve got one that’s absolutely elated with the result of the game and is now going to be playing Premier League football, and one that’s going to be bitterly disappointed that he’s not got his dream,” said Page.

“Sorba is slightly different to Brennan, he’s not played as many minutes and had as much football. Credit to him, he flew out yesterday and got here this morning and he is with the boys for breakfast today, showing that commitment to be with the group right away.

“Brennan’s slightly different. I’ve given him a few days [off] after the final. He’s played a lot of football this season so he won’t be part of Wednesday’s group [against Poland], but he’ll be there at the hotel waiting for us on Wednesday night [in Wales] when we fly back, ready for Sunday’s game.”

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