Gareth Bale Is Finally Stepping Out Of Ronaldo’s Shadow At Real Madrid

You got the feeling that Gareth Bale had reached a career crossroads after he came off the bench to secure Real Madrid their third Champions League title in a row.

The Welshman only made twenty La Liga starts during the 2017-18 season. Injuries were certainly an issue, he has had persistent calf problems, but he also seemed to have fallen out of favour with Real’s head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Directly after Bale’s great brace downed Liverpool in May, he stated:

“I need to be playing week in, week out, and that’s not happened this season,”

“I had an injury five, six weeks into the season but I’ve been fit ever since,” 

“I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it.”

Those are the words of a disgruntled player.

Yet seven games into Madrid’s season this year and Bale is shining once again.

The forward has played in six of those fixtures; scoring four goals and creating three assists for Real teammates. He looks to be fully fit, has found his pace and his grin again.

Two big things happened after the Champions League final that have directly contributed in Gareth’s upturn in form.

Firstly, Zidane left and was replaced by Julen Lopetegui. That has eased the tension for Bale. I don’t think he could have co-existed with Madrid legend Zizou at the Bernabeu after his blunt statement in Kiev.

Secondly, the world class talent that is Cristiano Ronaldo also departed the Spanish capital.

The Portuguese superstar was the club’s star-man and a talismanic figure that engulfed every other member of the playing squad. Everything seemed to go through the superb forward; he left Real Madrid after nine seasons playing in 438 games, scoring 450 goals and winning a host of trophies for Los Blancos.

At times, fellow teammates seemed to shrink in the thirty-three year old’s presence. His personality and emotions seemed to stifle other talented, creative players.

You either had to accept being a Ronaldo runner like Karim Benzema, which sees you playing every week on the understanding that you work your bollocks off to do all the dirty work for the Portuguese international, or you tried to show influence with your own ability and risk Cristiano’s death stare and the fans turning against you.

Bale seemed to be on the side of sticking to his own style, which didn’t always gel with that of Ronaldo’s. The fans in the stands would boo Bale if they felt he’d taken a shot on and that Ronaldo was better placed. Instead of backing his teammate, the former Real number seven would go in a huff and glare at the Welsh international for having the balls to back his own ability.

Now that Ronaldo is no longer at the Bernabeu and no direct replacement was brought in, it gives players like Bale and Isco the chance to shine and to do so without intimidation.

Bale has scored 25% of Real Madrid’s La Liga goals this term. He’s also regularly providing for teammates. This is the Gareth Bale that Florentino Perez paid €91m for back in 2013.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Welsh attacker has been very successful at Real throughout his career in Spain. He’s helped them win four Champions League titles, a La Liga, A Copa del Rey, two UEFA Super Cups and two Fifa World Club Cups. He’s also banged in 92 goals in 195 appearances.

In all honesty, he can still do better. His best scoring season saw him score twenty-two times in his debut season. Now without Ronaldo to play through, I’d be expecting Gareth to be aiming for the thirty goal mark.

He’s started off this campaign brilliantly well but Bale needs to continually do it (especially on the big stage) and help the club secure more trophies.

The biggest compliment Gareth Bale can have, is come the end of the season no one mentions that Real Madrid are missing Cristiano Ronaldo! That’s a huge task but one I think Bale can overcome.

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