London - Wales manager Chris Coleman has rallied to the defence of forward Gareth Bale by accusing his Real Madrid team-mates of deliberately ignoring him on the pitch.
Bale, 25, has endured a difficult second season in Madrid, coming under fire from fans and the media, and lost a key ally on Monday when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as manager.
Bale came in for particularly sharp criticism after Madrid's loss to Juventus in the Champions League semi-finals, but Coleman said the focus on the former Tottenham Hotspur player was unfair.
Also read: Bale included in Wales squad for qualifier against Belgium
"He was heavily criticised after that first leg, but I am seeing him in great positions and not receiving the ball from certain players," Coleman said in comments published by several British newspapers on Wednesday.
"My assistant Osian (Roberts) called me up and I told him, 'I know what you are going to say -- they are not giving him the ball.'
"It wasn't Carlo Ancelotti's fault. It is down to the players on the pitch and it looked to me like he was being overlooked.
"You can only do what you do best. With us, when he is in good positions we make sure we give it to him. In Madrid I did not see that and it was not because he was not working hard."
Coleman added: "There is so much focus on him that if he makes one mistake, it is a big deal. If he fails to find Cristiano Ronaldo with a pass and Ronaldo reacts and makes a gesture, it gets blown up.
"I have watched many games where Ronaldo has been poor, Isco has been poor. They paid a lot of money for James Rodriguez and there is not a lot coming from there, but it is Gareth who is getting it."
Madrid paid a reported world-record fee of 85.3 million ($131.3 million, 120.4 million euros) to sign Bale from Spurs in 2013.
He scored 22 goals in his first season, including decisive strikes in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals, and although he has struggled this season, he has still found the net 17 times.
Bale has been included in Wales's squad for their 2016 European Championship qualifier at home to Belgium on June 12.For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.