Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has accused Marca of deliberately targeting him personally with its “totally false” claim that Gareth Bale was signed injured and will need an operation to fix a slipped disk in his back.
Marca reported last weekend that the former Tottenham player has a slipped disk in his back -- which Perez knew about before the summer’s 100 million euro world-record transfer went through. The Estadio Santiago Bernabeu club responded with a strongly worded denial, while the club’s chief of medical services admitted Bale had a slight back problem, but it was nowhere near as serious as was being made out.
On Monday, Bale continued his 'mini preseason' programme, which includes double daily sessions and aims to have the Wales captain ready for Madrid’s upcoming Champions League double-header against Juventus and La Liga Clasico against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
And later that evening Perez told TV talk show Punta Pelota that Marca’s "cruel" and story had no basis in reality.
"It is hard to understand such a cruel report," Perez said. "Above all, because it is not true. I was very surprised. It was the first I heard of this. It is totally false."
The Blancos chief also claimed to be surprised that a paper with Marca’s reputation for serious journalism went ahead with the story, when both the club and Bale’s representatives had denied the claims.
"It is very shocking that a paper that has always been known for serious and correct information, now says something which is not true, and does not tell what they were told by Madrid’s medical services and by Bale’s people," he said.
Perez, who is increasingly being criticised in Spain amid claims he his hiding the true size of Madrid’s debts, said the idea that he would sign a player he knew to be injured was particularly hard to take.
"They told me that Bale was fit, after the medical, and I went to the presentation," he said. "In the information published they wanted to say that I, despite having the information that he had a problem, wanted to keep going with [the transfer]. They have wanted to charge me with a responsibility that I do not have because nobody told me that the player was not fit. They tried to involve me in this type of set-up, with a bad intention. Either they have hit a goal right in the top corner, or they are trying to foist on us something which does not fit with our history or the prestige of our institution."
Perez echoed the opinion of Madrid’s medical chief that a ‘protrusion’ or ‘disc bulge’ in a player’s spinal column would not necessarily hamper their performances.
"I heard the word 'protrusion' for the first time last Saturday,” he added. "It is something relatively normal in an elite footballer, say almost all the doctors who have spoken on this. If there is no pain, you do not need to intervene. The doctors did not have to advise me of anything. They showed me today the X-Ray and it was fine."
Marca backed up its claim the injury was more serious on Monday with quotes from doctor Avelino Parajon who said the big-money transfer looked a mistake, however Perez said he had spoken with Parajon and there had been a misunderstanding.
"All the doctors have left it clear that a protrusion is not as serious as was published," he said. "The only doctor who has said anything different is Avelino Parajon, and I myself spoke with him today and he told me he did not want to say what they say he said."
Such scurrilous reports could damage Bale’s value to sponsors and commercial partners, Perez complained.
"All this affects the image, the dignity and the financial performance of Bale," he said. "The player and his camp are concerned because this can affect their contracts and campaigns. They have said that he had a slipped disk when he does not have it. The legal people are studying what we can do."