Gareth Bale: Real Madrid forward 'grew up' after bad season
Gareth Bale has admitted to having had a "difficult journey" at Real Madrid after signing a new six-year contract.
The 27-year-old Wales forward was heavily criticised in his second season at Real, but bounced back last season with 19 goals in 31 games as the Spanish club won the Champions League.
"I had one season where it wasn't the best but that made me grow up as a player and person," he said.
"It made me learn to deal with whatever is thrown at me."
Bale joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur on a six-year deal in 2013 for £85m, a world record transfer fee at the time.
He helped the club win the Champions League in his first season, scoring in the final against Atletico Madrid. But in 2014-15, he was booed by his own fans and attacked by the Spanish media, despite scoring 17 goals.
"In football you have good seasons and bad seasons, there was no real turning point," he said. "Sometimes things go for you, sometimes they don't. If things are going bad and you keep working hard, things will turn around eventually.
"I understand with media you'll get good and bad press. But if you take too much notice you'll put yourself down."
Bale's contract is reportedly worth £600,000 per week, £350,000 after tax - which would make him the highest paid footballer in the world.
When he was asked what his new salary was, he laughed, considered his answer and said: "That's for me to know and no-one else to find out. Sorry."
Bale has helped Real win five trophies in the past three seasons, scoring 62 goals in 135 appearances.
Of his time in Spain, he said: "It's changed me quite a lot. The reason I came was to try something different. It's never easy. British players travelling abroad are usually not successful but I wanted to try.
"I feel more comfortable each year I'm here. I'm improving my Spanish, my family are more settled. I fully expect to see out my contract here. I don't know when I'll retire. I'm not looking past the next six years."
Meanwhile, the former Southampton left-back says winning the Ballon d'Or, for world footballer of the year has "never been a personal goal".
He added: "I never dreamt about that when I was younger, I thought about winning leagues and the Champions League. If I win trophies and play well, individual awards come around.
"I'm not striving towards it. It's not something I think about but if it did happen it would be fantastic."
And he does not know whether reported interest from Manchester United during his three years at the Bernabeu was real, saying: "Since I've been here I've just been concentrating on playing for Real Madrid."
'He can be a player forever here'
Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon told BBC Sport: "It was well worth paying what we paid for Gareth Bale when we signed him from Tottenham.
"This extension is very good news for Real Madrid. Fans love him. He was very humble when he came. Everyone expected a lot from him; he gave that.
"He helped us to win the Champions League. He's playing very well. Last season was perfect. He can be a player forever with Real Madrid. He can retire here."