Gareth Bale bemoans lost joy of childhood and joins the outcasts with limited options | Barry Glendenning

The Real Madrid winger’s dream has turned into a nightmare and he finds himself in the same boat as Özil and Sánchez

In his documentary State of Play, an examination of the current wellbeing of football aired on BT Sport last week, Michael Calvin was granted an audience with Gareth Bale. He put it to the Real Madrid winger that Rory McIlroy, in whose company Calvin had spent quality time while embedded with Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup team at the invitation of their captain, Thomas Bjorn, had told him that when you reach a certain level as an athlete or sportsman you can no longer retain that joy you had as an innocent kid. “Have you found that?” he asked Bale.

“Yeah, 100%, he couldn’t have put it any better,” said the footballer, without hesitation. “When you’re a kid you have no thoughts in your mind, you just play it with your friends, having a laugh. When you come to the elite level, there’s all sorts of pressures and expectations. There’s people talking negatively all the time. It loses that childlike feeling. I get that it’s pretty much like that for most sports, to be honest.”

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