Former Real Madrid coach and sporting director Jorge Valdano has told El Larguero that Gareth Bale has looked "downcast" in recent games due to fitness issues, the expectations generated by his world-record transfer fee and competition from youngster Jese Rodriguez.
• Train: Jese vs Bale
Bale has been a peripheral presence in Madrid's latest matches, while many fans and pundits in the Spanish capital have been wowed by the zip and confidence of youth product Jese, 20, on the other wing.
Los Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti maintains that he will not be swayed by Bale's fee in deciding whether to start Jese ahead of the Welsh star on current form, and Valdano believes the former Tottenham talisman is not yet showing his true worth.
“Bale has a strange anxiety because you do not notice it in the intensity of play,” media pundit Valdano said. “When someone is anxious, they play at a speed above what suits them, but it is like he is somewhere else. That is the strange sensation you get from him.
"The team are saving him. There are so many points to consider, among them Jese who is drawing so much attention.”
Bale has now played 90 minutes in each of Madrid’s last three games, his second-longest unbroken spell of a season which has so far been punctuated by injury.
However, the goalscoring form of Jese leaves Ancelotti with a big decisions ahead of upcoming the Champions League last 16 tie with Schalke and crunch meetings with La Liga title rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona over the next month.
Valdano said it appeared that the regular injury absences, combined with the expectation generated by his record 101 million euro price-tag, were now weighing heavily on the Wales captain’s shoulders.
“I suppose it comes from his lack of regular games and the injuries,” he continued. “And also from being so closely observed because of what was paid for him. We have not yet seen the true Bale. You see he looks a bit unhappy at the moment. He looks a bit downcast.”