The love-hate relationship between Gareth Bale and Real Madrid fans is well-documented. Bale has openly expressed his qualms about the reception he used to have from Bernabeu faithfuls. The fans whistled him and mock him when he struggled on the pitch and that dented his confidence even more. However, during the recent events of the Champions League and La Liga victory celebrations recently, a warm reception from the fans pleasantly surprised him. As he is set to leave Real Madrid next season, let’s look back at his time in the Spanish Capital.
Gareth Bale is one of the astonishing anomalies in football today. From what promised to be a spectacular career shaped to be hot and cold. Yet he served his time in Real Madrid and Tottenham as a star player. The fact that he ended up with more titles than Figo and Zidane, more goals than Ronaldo Nazario and more assists than Beckham, is enough of evidence for his illustrious career at the Bernabeu. And to think that still he couldn’t make the most of his potential keeps pinching his fans. His uncanny ability to land himself in controversies somehow overshadows most of the things he accomplished in Madrid.
Bale started his career as a professional with Southampton in English Championship in 2005. He moved to Tottenham before the start of the 07/08 season. It was at Tottenham that he made a name for himself with his pace, skills and finishing. He scored 72 goals and assisted 60 times for Spurs (including the loan stint the previous season). After a prolific season with the Spurs in 12/13, where he scored 21 goals and assisted 4 times in 33 appearances, Real Madrid bagged him the next season.
Bale at Madrid
Bale had a more than decent start to his career at Real Madrid. In his first season, he bagged 22 goals and 16 assists in 44 appearances. Now, that was some start. Next season – 15 goals and 11 assists. 15/16 was his personal best where they lost the La Lia title to Barcelona by a single point but won the Champions League against their city rivals in an epic fashion. That season he scored 29 goals and assisted 14 times in 48 appearances, with 0.98 goals per every 90 minutes played. His numbers, however, have dropped ever since. Various injuries, disciplinary and controversies gradually took over and changed the narrative of a story that promised so much.
Bale represented Los Blancos 245 times across competitions, scoring 99 goals and assisting 58 while winning 16 titles with them. That is an extraordinary career for more than 99% of professional footballers. But given his potential and career trajectory a few years back, it has often been about “what if” than “oh wow”. Having said that, he still has had a stellar career and time for the Spanish football royalties.
When it comes to talent, the overhead kick against Liverpool in the Champions League final and the magical goal in El Clasico to win Copa Del Rey are sufficient to prove that he had the abundance of the same. He is equally good at set-pieces. While discipline on the pitch wasn’t his strongest suit as one would deduce by now, his skills with the ball at his feet were. Solid at aerial duels, cutting inside the opposition, making those lay-offs and playing long balls, have been his stronger suits. His pace and his finishing prowess made him a gun player. He thrived as a winger but could play in any attacking position as the situation demanded.
Beginning of end?
One might notice that most of the discussions have been in the past tense. 32 isn’t old by any means in this day and age. However, from where the vantage point is, his career is heading towards a twilight. There is nothing better than a story of a comeback or revival or resurrection .And Bale is certainly capable of That. We really hope that he makes us reconsider the choice of tense.