Bale says 'golfer' claim from Courtois was a joke, not a jibe

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Gareth Bale has cleared the air with Thibaut Courtois after the goalkeeper let slip that Real Madrid team-mates nicknamed the Welsh star "the golfer".

That revelation emerged earlier this year when Courtois, in an interview with a Belgian newspaper, also hinted at bemusement over Bale and Toni Kroos skipping a team evening meal because they wanted to avoid a late night.

Bale, who says his critics are misinformed and their verdicts on his Santiago Bernabeu career "mean nothing", made sure he got to the bottom of Courtois' comments.

And he believes the Belgian goalkeeper meant no offence.

"I am a golfer!" Bale said in a Wales news conference on Thursday. "I spoke to him about it and he meant it as a joke.

"People took it out of context, but I'm very happy with the nickname to be honest. It's a great one.

"Obviously football is number one. Golf is a hobby like anyone else would have a hobby.

"There's nothing wrong with having a round and people make a lot of it. It's just one thing I really enjoy. It keeps me calmer off the pitch."

Bale's scorn for the hot takes about his Madrid future was spelt out by the 30-year-old, after a transfer window full of speculation linking him with a move away from Spain.

He reportedly came close to joining Chinese club Jiangsu Suning, and was linked with various Premier League teams, but ended up staying in Madrid.

Asked about the rumours surrounding him, Bale said: "I just don't listen to any of it because they don't really know what they're on about. I don't read anything, I don't listen to anyone.

"Most people don't know the situation, don't understand things, so what they're writing means nothing."

After regaining the faith of Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, who said during the summer it would be "best for everyone" if Bale moved on, the winger could yet have successful years ahead at the club.

Wales boss Ryan Giggs enjoyed seeing his star man net a double in Madrid's 2-2 draw at Villarreal on Sunday, although Bale's late red card was a blemish on that performance.

"It's good to see him scoring again because usually when he scores he gets on a roll, so hopefully that'll be the case," Giggs said.

Manchester United winger Daniel James could eventually supplant Bale as the Wales talisman, but Giggs is thrilled at the prospect of them playing in tandem for now.

"Dan's got off to a great start in his Manchester United career but also he's been brilliant for us in the last few games, especially in the summer [June] under difficult circumstances," said Giggs, referring to James' father dying in late May.

"It's not only about Gareth. The pressure is always on Gareth and the spotlight is always on Gareth, but I want to bring that pressure off Gareth where we can't rely on him in every game because we have other talented players in the squad."

Wales face Azerbaijan in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday, having lost their past two Group E matches.