Gareth Bale, Iker Casillas suffer backlash for Madrid slump
Real Madrid may have made the last eight of the Champions League for a fifth consecutive season, but their Bernabeu faithful also reached the end of their patience after a humiliating 4-3 home defeat to Schalke on Tuesday.
The reigning champions sneaked through 5-4 on aggregate thanks to their 2-0 success in Gelsenkirchen three weeks ago.
Yet qualification was met with a series of boos and whistles as Real`s Galactico stars were left in no doubt that their disastrous run of form will not be tolerated by a famously demanding fanbase.
That anger was reflected on the front pages of Madrid`s sports pages on Wednesday. The normally pro-Real paper Marca describing the Bernabeu in a state of panic, whilst the headline in AS led "to the quarter-finals with shame".
World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo was the only man in white to emerge with any credit as his two goals not only saved his side from a shock elimination, but also made him the all-time top goalscorer in European competitions with 78.
Meanwhile, Gareth Bale and captain Iker Casillas were singled out for special criticism.
Casillas has endured a love-hate relationship with the Bernabeu for the past three seasons ever since he clashed with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho during his last campaign in charge of Madrid.
The 33-year-old said afterwards that "we have hit rock bottom in a spectacular way", whilst also accepting critics of his display in which he was at least partly at fault in Schalke`s first three goals.
However, Casillas is also expected to be coming towards the end of a remarkable 18-year career at Madrid with Manchester United`s David de Gea being heavily linked with a return to his homeland.
Bale on the other hand is just in his second season after being signed for a reportedly world record fee from Tottenham Hotspur.
Back in December the Welshman was nicknamed "the finals man" by the Spanish press after adding a goal in the Club World Cup win over San Lorenzo to his decisive strikes to win the Copa del Rey and the Champions League against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively last season.
Even in his debut season, though, Bale would often have little impact on games before turning up in the right place in the right time or smashing home a wonder goal. The feeling that he wasn`t involved enough in the game was counteracted by a fine record of 22 goals and 19 assists.
This season he already has 14 goals to his name, but he has now gone nine matches without scoring and his inability to offer any defensive cover has been scrutinised more with every passing week.
"Yesterday was another demonstration that Bale is not able to defend, and almost not able to attack either," wrote Enrique Ortego in Marca.
Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has insisted multiple times that he has full confidence in Bale and that his place in the side alongside Karim Benzema and Ronaldo in a three-pronged attack was "non-negotiable" as long as all three are fit.
That promise is likely to come under ever increasing strain with Madrid now having lost five of their 15 games this calendar year and facing a daunting trip to face Barcelona on March 22.
As Marca added the only thing that is non-negotiable should this run of form continue is Ancelotti`s sacking.