Moving to Real Madrid has made Gareth Bale a better person and lived up to all his expectations, the Welsh winger said on Monday.
The 27-year-old was speaking for the first time since he extended his contract with the La Liga club until June 2022.
“Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world,” Bale told a news conference.
“I definitely made the right decision. Real matches all my ambitions. It’s been three great seasons. I hope there are six more years like this. I feel very happy and loved here.”
And loved by the club’s president, Florentino Pérez, above all. Pérez has always considered him a future winner of the Ballon d’Or. Bale, though, insisted that he has never dreamed of winning the award.
Manchester United were reportedly keen to bring Bale back to the Premier League, but the player himself said he was unaware of interest from anywhere else and was delighted to remain at the “biggest club in the world.”
“I could not tell you if anybody has been interested,” he said. “If they have been, I don’t know about it. I’ve just been focused on Real Madrid. We [players] never speak about these things anyway.
He has felt extremely well looked-after since he arrived and his camp found Madrid immediately receptive during the negotiations, quickly reaching the basis of an agreement even though the construction of the contract was complex. They see Bale as the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo – and sooner rather than later.
Bale said that his three years in the Spanish capital had seen him grow up both as a person and a player.
“It has changed me quite a lot,” he said. “It has made me grow up more as a person. I came to Madrid in the first place to try something different. It is never easy for British players to travel abroad and be successful but I wanted to improve my game.
“I have had two good years here, and one that was not so good, which helped me to grow up too. Good and bad press is all part and parcel of the game. If you listen too much you can get yourself down. I know from experience not to listen too much to either the good or the bad comments.”
Bale has long been spoken about as a potential Ballon d’Or winner, but said such personal trophies were not something he thought about too much.
“As for the Ballon d’Or if you are playing well for your club and country and winning trophies, these things will happen,” he said. “For me it has never been a personal goal, when I was younger it was always about winning team titles.
“The personal awards come around when the team does well. It is not something I am striving towards, if it does come fantastic, but first and foremost it is about the team.”