Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has said he had to take "a lot of painkillers" to be able to play last season and admits he should not have been so hasty in trying to come back from injury.
Bale has been plagued by fitness problems during his four years in Spain and underwent an ankle operation last November which sidelined him for three months. Ten games into his return to action, he suffered a calf tear during a match against Barcelona in April that kept him out for another six weeks.
The Wales international declared himself fit in the week ahead of the Champions League final in his hometown of Cardiff, where he appeared for the final 13 minutes of Madrid's 4-1 win over Juventus.
That was a memorable end to what was otherwise a frustrating season for Bale, with the former Tottenham man conceding that playing through the pain barrier was a mistake.
Asked why he did not rest more after his operation, Bale told El Pais: "On one hand it's easy now to say that I should have rested more. But when you've been injured for three months and you see your teammates playing, you really want to return and that's what I did.
"I had to take a lot of painkillers to be able to play. And yes, now I think I should have taken more time to recover so I could have played much better when I returned and be able to do all those things with the ankle which I wasn't able to.
"And yes, if I go back I would have taken more time to recover better.''
Bale has helped Madrid win 10 trophies since joining the club in a then world-record £86 million move from Tottenham in 2013, including three Champions League crowns, but he has also found himself facing criticism and doubts over some of his performances and fitness.
The 28-year-old, who has regularly been linked with a move back to the Premier League with Manchester United, says he takes all that in his stride.
"They are all opinions. They have to sell newspapers in some way and they have to write something. So I'm used to people writing good things, bad things. And it doesn't bother me too much,'' he said. "Football is a sport which stirs passions and it's normal that everyone has their opinions.
"An injury is something that's very frustrating when you're a professional sportsman. Of course it's been difficult not being able to play, but I've had a good preseason and I'm training hard to be able to help the team win more titles.''
Bale does, however, hope that Madrid fans have not seen the best of him yet.
"I hope the best is yet to come," he said. "I've had some great moments, and others not so much.''