Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard go head-to-head in Wales’ decisive World Cup qualifier against Belgium

Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard may be on opposite sides as they go head-to-head in Wales’s World Cup qualifier against Belgium on Tuesday but they will have one thing in common.  

The pair are both talismans for their national sides but things aren’t too good at home. 

Both have a rocky relationship with their club Real Madrid as Bale has inflamed the fury of Madrid fans the Spanish press, while Hazard is floundering as he desperately attempts to snatch some game time under Carlo Ancelotti.

Gareth Bale (left) and Eden Hazard (right) shine for their countries but struggle at Real Madrid 

Yet, the Welshman and the Belgian both excel on the international stage when they don the captain’s armband for their respective countries.  

Bale has become notorious for putting his country – and golf – above his club. He famously antagonised Real Madrid in 2019 when he and his Wales team-mates held up a flag that read ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.’

The controversial stunt took place after Wales beat Hungary to qualify for Euro 2020, and came amid wild celebrations with the crowd in Cardiff. 

At the time, Bale was heavily linked with a move away from the Bernabeu, and was caught on camera laughing, which didn’t go down too well with the fans in Madrid.

Madrid supporters were enraged after Bale's notorious, and controversial, flag stunt in 2019

Madrid supporters were enraged after Bale’s notorious, and controversial, flag stunt in 2019

But the tension between the Welshman and Madrid boiled over last week as Bale was slammed for playing for his country by the Spanish media. 

The winger hasn’t featured for Real Madrid since August 28, in their clash against Real Betis, after picking up a hamstring tear in September.

But he won his 100th cap for Wales when managed a first-half cameo for Rob Page’s side against Belarus last week. Bale lined up from the off in the World Cup qualifier but was substituted off at half-time. 

He was forced to reveal post-match following Wales’ victory that his substitution was pre-planned, but his attitude has since been scathingly labelled as ‘unpresentable’ by frustrated reporters back in Spain.

Bale was forced to insist that his substitution at half-time this weekend had been pre-planned

Bale was forced to insist that his substitution at half-time this weekend had been pre-planned

In El Sanhedrin de Carrusel Deportivo, via AS, Antonio Romero took aim at this statistic and even slammed the 32-year-old as a ‘bad example in the dressing room’. 

‘His attitude is unpresentable to be the highest paid in Real Madrid. Madrid on June 30 takes a load off their shoulders,’ Romero said. ‘I think he is a bad example in the dressing room and someone in private should sing him forty. 

‘It is unfortunate that today he is a starter with the national team after more than two months without playing in Madrid. He is making fun of the badge he defends.’

Bale began the season brightly under Carlo Ancelotti, having played in the first two LaLiga fixtures of the campaign, but he then picked up his latest setback in training and found himself ruled out of action for two months.

The winger started the season brightly but faced a setback after picking up a hamstring tear

The winger started the season brightly but faced a setback after picking up a hamstring tear

Extraordinarily, his appearance against Belarus was his fourth international appearance this term. In comparison, he has played just three times for Madrid. 

He has become a bit of a burden for Madrid as his weekly wage reportedly stands at a hefty £600,000, making him the best-paid player at the club. Since he last pulled on Madrid’s jersey in the last week of August, he has earned around £6.6million. 

But Wales boss Page revealed that the Real Madrid forward would not be starting against Belgium on Tuesday – and could miss out altogether.

Wales will make a late decision on whether the Madrid forward and their record goalscorer makes the bench against the world’s top-ranked team. 

On the Belgium game, Page said: ‘He was never going to start against Belgium.

‘We knew that coming into camp. The plan was always for him to get a half in the first game and then come on and maybe have an impact in the second game. 

‘He is going to be stiff. He has not played for a couple of months and to throw him in was a big ask from a physical point of view.

‘He’ll recover on his own (on Monday) and we’ll leave it to the last minute to see if he can play minutes. He is getting there, slowly but surely. We will get him back to full fitness.

Wales boss Rob Page admitted that the Dragons captain won't start the game against Belgium

Wales boss Rob Page admitted that the Dragons captain won’t start the game against Belgium

‘It’s frustrating for him. He made a tremendous effort to get fit for the game and he takes credit for that.’

Still, Bale’s break from the game is probably not a sufficient olive branch to save him from the fury awaiting him in the Spanish capital. 

Meanwhile, Hazard has struggled to have an impact at the Bernabeu since arriving as a major top-flight star from Chelsea in 2019. 

The Belgian has failed to reach the same heights that convinced Madrid to splash out an initial fee of £89m, as his stuttering LaLiga career has been hindered by injuries, leaving him struggling for game time.

Hazard has scored just five goals across 54 appearances in all competitions for Los Blancos and as a result he has lost his spot in the starting XI and has been linked with a move away. 

Hazard has spent most of the season on the bench as Carlo Ancelotti prefers other forwards

Hazard has spent most of the season on the bench as Carlo Ancelotti prefers other forwards 

In a further blow, manager Carlo Ancelotti appears open to letting the forward leave and is adamant that he will be free to go should he want to.

The Madrid boss, who returned for his second stint at the Bernabeu in summer, gave a damning indictment of Hazard’s prospects at the Bernabeu as he said that his star man must accept the fact he has slipped down the pecking order and admitted he preferred other players. 

‘He has absolutely everything but he has to put up with the situation,’ Ancelotti told Spanish media. ‘Right now he has a coach who prefers other players.’ 

Carlo Ancelotti has told Eden Hazard to 'put up' with his limited minutes at Real Madrid

The Belgian, 30, has started just five games in all competitions under the Italian this season

Manager Ancelotti (left) told Hazard (right) to ‘put up’ with limited minutes at Real Madrid

His comments all but confirmed that Hazard’s absence from Madrid’s line-ups is not solely down to fitness concerns. 

Despite being fit for most of this season, the 30-year-old has made just 11 appearances and scored one goal.

Ancelotti has turned to other members of his squad, relying heavily on Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo instead. 

But Hazard’s Belgium career tells a different story.   

He captained Roberto Martinez’s side as they qualified for next year’s World Cup and kept up their unbeaten qualifying run as they beat Estonia 3-1 in Brussels.

But the Belgian captained Roberto Martinez's side as they qualified for nest year's World Cup

But the Belgian captained Roberto Martinez’s side as they qualified for nest year’s World Cup

Despite his injury woes and floundering form at Madrid, Hazard also looked lively for Belgium throughout their Euro 2020 campaign.

The Belgian appears to roll back the years when playing for his national side, providing vintage Hazard performances rarely seen at Real Madrid. 

With Belgium topping Group E and Wales guaranteed a play-off spot thanks to their Nations League campaign, we could be seeing Bale and Hazard heading to Qatar but what remains to be seen is if they will both still be on Real Madrid’s books when they do.

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