In a BT Sport interview with Rio Ferdinand, Bale opened up on his experiences at Real Madrid, his hopes for Euro 2016 success with Wales and Leicester's Premier League title triumph.
Bale on becoming a Galactico:
The first season I found it quite good. I think you’re running off emotions, you’re excited to be here. The second season really brought me back down to earth. But I think it was the best thing that happened to me last year. I think you obviously learn when you win but I think you learn more about yourself when you go through those hard times. It wasn’t a great year for me personally but I feel like now I’ve come out stronger. I’ve come out fighting. It’s shown my character. I feel a lot more comfortable, I’m a lot more involved with the team. I speak a bit better Spanish and I just feel like I’m growing again.
Obviously in the first year as well winning the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. Such high moments. And then you have to emulate them again to keep right up there. I was in a different culture, a different language, in a different country. It’s difficult for my family as well not speaking the language properly. It was a difficult time but, as I said, I think you learn so much more about yourself. Obviously at the time you wish you don’t go through those difficult periods but once you come out the other side you feel a lot stronger for it. If those things were to happen again you’d know how to deal with them and improve as a player.
Bale on Zinedine Zidane:
He’s been great since he’s come in. Everyone respects him as a football and a man and now as a coach. He’s just got that aura about him. Whatever he says everyone really just drools over the words he says. Whatever he says you trust in what he’s saying. He knows football obviously from when he played. I think he’s just given us that belief, that joy just to go out on the pitch and enjoy yourself. If you don’t have to worry about certain things you can just go on and express yourself on the pitch you tend to get performances out of players. He’s just given that to the team that we can go out and play and enjoy ourselves.
He’s similar to how he was as a footballer. When he needs to say something he will say it. He’s a firm believer in our need to keep calm. We need to be patient even if it’s the 80th minute and we need to score. He’ll say “be patient, it’ll come, it’ll come,” and not to rush things. Obviously when something needs to be said he has said it… in Spanish which is a little bit difficult to understand. It’s been good and I think it’s just give the confidence to everybody just to go out and express themselves and I think we’ve been thriving off that.
Bale on his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo:
It’s fine. As you said all the papers and the media try to create a lot of problems. But we’ve never had a problem in the dressing room or on the pitch. I think you know yourself he’s an emotional player on the pitch, he can throw his arms up now and then but that’s how he is. He works hard for the teams and scores goals which is important but as I said we’ve never had a problem. We get on really well. We speak. He speaks English which is good for me. I’m enjoying playing together.
You can see he’s dedicated, always in the gym working hard and stuff like that. I think he’s a bit more laid back than he was at United. He tends to make quite a few jokes and messes around as well which is good for the team spirit. He’s been great since I’ve been here and hopefully we can win more trophies now with him here.
Bale on winning the Champions League:
At my press conference when I first signed it was all about La Decima. Literally the first thing I heard was La Decima. The president straight away said “we’re signing you for La Decima. To win the tenth.” It had been 12 years I think since we last won the Champions League. It’s ingrained in the club, the club lives for European Cups. When you join here you definitely know all about it.
The feeling I expected I think. It’s hard to describe, as you know, winning the Champions League. The night you do it you’re so high you don’t really know what to think. Once it all settles in you still really can’t believe it. When we came back here after the game there was like 1 million people in Plaza de Cibeles, where they celebrate the trophy victories. It was just incredible the scenes. The amount of people that came out and it was like 7 in the morning. Still out partying and still there in their numbers. We’re on an open top bus, the sun’s actually starting to come up and it’s just incredible scenes.
Bale on Atletico Madrid:
They’re a very difficult team to play against. They’re very defensive and tend to park the bus, as people say. We know a lot about them and, yeah, we haven’t had the greatest of record against them in the last 10 games. But I suppose we can always look back on the final and when it counts we put in the performance and got the result. Hopefully that’s a scar for them, it won’t give them too much confidence. We’re confident going into the game that we can win like we are in any other game and hopefully we can win our second Champions League.
Bale on Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone:
You have to appreciate what he’s done for that team. In the last 4 or 5 years he’s won trophies and they’ve always been the underdog. They’ve always been the team that’s probably had to fight the hardest and had the least resources. I think he’s done an amazing job there and hopefully he just won’t do a good job in the final.
Bale on comparisons between La Liga and the Premier League:
The biggest thing is that it’s more tactical here and more technical I suppose. The passing game is a bit more advanced. The patience. Everything is tactical, the managers always have plans. In the Premier League it’s very physical, end to end. Now especially with the Premier League so open, any team can beat anyone. It’s more back and forth, 100 miles per hour. But the physicality of the Premier League is definitely the biggest difference between them both.
I think the difference from the top to the bottom is very large, whereas in the Premier League the bottom team can easily beat the top team. Last year Leicester were 20th and now they’re top. Yeah so I think the biggest difference is the teams at the top to the bottom is a very big gap whereas in the Premier League there’s a very small gap between everybody.
Bale on Leicester:
Leicester has been an incredible story. Nobody saw it coming. What was it, with 8 games to go they were bottom last season and then to win the Premier League is a phenomenal achievement and I still can’t believe they’ve won it now. They’ve done amazing. Their players have performed to a high level. They’re maybe similar to Atletico. They work very well as a team, they do everything as a team. As for Tottenham I think they played the best actual football. They’ve been maybe the best footballing team. They were just unlucky not to get over the line.
Bale on Euro 2016:
Growing up, some teams have come so close to qualifying in the playoffs and not quite getting there. It was always a dream of mine to be able to qualify with Wales and when we did it just to know that you’ve made history. We know we didn’t win a trophy but for our country to achieve something like that was amazing and to be a part of it was another dream come true. I can say for every Welshman that we’re obviously proud that we’ve done that. But we don’t just want to make it a one-time thing, we want to try and create now a team spirit. A team to go forward and a winning mentality that we can keep qualifying for major tournaments in the future. It’s great to have qualified. We’ve enjoyed qualifying but we have to get our head on the actual tournament now and hopefully we can do as well as we can.
We’re so together, it’s similar to Leicester again. We’ve got a very good team spirit. There’s never groups of players together, everyone’s together. We’ve all grown up with each other since under 16s, 17s and we’ve come through the ranks. John Toshack gave us all our debuts very young and there was a reason for that. We’ve all got 50 caps, 60 caps now and we’re all 25, 26, 27 and I think we’ve got a lot of experience for a young team. We’ve grown together. We’ve had our dark times together, don’t get me wrong but I now think we’re seeing the positives of what we’ve done in the past by gaining the experience of playing together. We have that atmosphere like a club team, we all get along and we work hard for each other.
Bale on England v Wales:
I think there’s going to be a lot of emotion in it. I think England are going to have a lot of pressure. They normally do. The media usually build them up before they’ve even done anything. It all depends on who controls their emotions. It’s going to be a very lively game. People will probably be throwing in a few tackles. I haven’t really thought too much about it because it’s a little bit into the future but I think it will be a close game and hopefully we can win it.
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