We loved Gareth Bale, but now he is a cold-hearted monster

Richard Heathcote

As our dearly beloved Gareth Bale edges ever closer to his move to Madrid, our once-pure love turns to the bitterest of hatred.

It's always hard when someone you love leaves you. How can they not love you the same way you love them? Don't they know how magical what you had was? Why would they throw that away? Nobody can ever make them as happy as you did.

But they leave anyway. And you still love them. So what do we do with that love?

The emotions are too strong to just throw your hands up and say "oh well!" The immediate sting of betrayal is far too intense to wave away. You can't just wish the other person a happy and successful life without you. Because everything we thought meant so much suddenly looks like a hollow, empty, lie.

So we channel that love into the only other emotion strong enough to handle the magnitude of those feelings. We hate them. And we don't just hate them like a fat man hates staircases, we hate them with the same all-consuming passion that once set our hearts racing.

Gareth Bale, we loved you, but this betrayal cannot be tolerated so kindly please die in a tire fire you cold-hearted monster.

And yet, this feeling is complete bullshit.

It's a total fabrication. An artificial construct. A rented storage space to keep all the old and unwanted feelings you had while you move on. This isn't Sol Campbell. When the man we call Judas left, he actively damaged the club's squad, finances, and reputation en route to strengthening our bitterest rival. Bale's departure comes with a world record transfer fee and the replacement signings of a half dozen brilliant players, arguably leaving us a better team than we were with him.

The only thing Bale damaged was our pride. And because the wound is too raw, we can't see that. We look for any excuse to justify the emotional 180 we've done.

Look at the outfit he's wearing! A pink shirt with a pink hat? God! He's the absolute worst, who would ever dress like that?! I fucking hate people who dress like that! (and meanwhile Chiriches and Lamela show up looking like they just rolled out of One Direction's closet and we spread our legs in welcome). Two days of missed training! Can you believe that? That's disrespect, that is. He disrespected the club. You can't disrespect the club. We can hate him for that one, right? Tell me that we can.

You can. You can hate him for whatever you want. I'm not here to tell you how to feel. The feeling is understandable. It comes from a place of pride, for yourself, for the team that you love. It's a reaffirmation of your loyalty to the badge. A boastful declaration of dedication to the shirt that transcends any fleeting feelings for a given player.

But it's still a lie. You don't hate Gareth Bale. We hate that he doesn't love us, that he doesn't love the club the same way we do, that he turned down the chance to let us make him a legend, that the passionate touchline hugging and the heart-hands flashed to the crowd might have been empty gestures. But just because he'll soon be flashing manos-corazones in Madrid doesn't mean he didn't genuinely heart us at the time. The sour taste of the break-up doesn't mean that he never loved you, just that he doesn't love you anymore.

Sometimes it just doesn't work out, no matter how much you want it to. No matter how much you want them to want it to. People change, you grow apart. And in the end everyone's better off. The Gareth Bale who goes off to Madrid is not the Gareth Bale you fell in love with. You can let him go.

And no matter how much we magnify the disrespect from his prematurely packed bags, it can never outweigh the dedication and brilliance he showed on the pitch when he was here. Back-to-back goals to beat Arsenal and Chelsea, the destruction of Inter Milan, the victory at Old Trafford, that winner at West Ham, countless team-carrying performances where he defied the fourth official's stopwatch and dared time to keep ticking before he blazed a screamer into the top corner. That is the Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur. That is who I choose to remember. That is who I will waste my feelings on. I'd love for you to join me.

Because one day years from now you'll run into him outside Craven Cottage, hairline receding to a familiar widow's peak and you'll wonder why you wasted so much time and so much energy feeling angry towards this person. This is the guy? Him? He's still cool, I guess, in a certain undefinable way. There's still something of the man you loved radiating from him that will never go away.

But in the wan light of a few years down the road, you have to squint to see it. And you'll realize that you're ok that he left, and you've done better for yourself than you ever did when he was here, and you're happy that he got something in the way of happiness too. And secretly you'll feel a little guilty pleasure that he's started going to seed, and you will continue on, a shining immortal as only a football club can be. And even so, just for moment you'll look back wistfully at the magical connection you once had and think, what if?

But then he puts out his cigarette, turns and walks on, and you realize you don't care what if. You had your time and it was wonderful and you moved on. And hating him all those years was a waste of time, because you're thankful for what he did, and you were better off without him.

So grab a bottle of red, spend an evening crying into YouTube as you relive the moments you shared. And when the bottle runs dry, thank him for what he gave you, and wish him luck. And then look over the squad overflowing with incredible talent, his last gift to you, and look towards the rest of this wonderful and promising new season.

Your future is bright, your future is lilywhite.

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