Gareth Bale – Could his time at Real Madrid be up?
The sports pages of the Spanish and international newspapers have been full of Gareth Bale, his recent decline in form, and the ensuing criticism from the Real Madrid fans; most notably after his extremely poor performance against Juventus in the Champions League semi-final 1st leg. However we’re not entirely sure this criticism is entirely warranted and here we shall explore whether the blame needs to be shared by the other players and the club.
Gareth Bale At Real Madrid
Gareth Bale moved to Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee estimated at £85.3million (€100 million) in 2013. Despite an injury-plagued first half of the season, he managed 22 goals and 16 assists in 44 matches in his debut season. Some of his goals were pretty important too, including the winning goal in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, and the 2nd goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
As far as debut seasons go, this was a great start to his Real Madrid career and his confidence was high. This is highlighted by the manner of his Copa del Rey final winning goal. Watch it below:
His 2014-15 campaign started where he left off, helping Real Madrid to victory in the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla, and also in the FIFA Club World Cup. During this time the much praised BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) strike force was on great form, with Ronaldo having scored 4 hat tricks by December. Their form drove Real Madrid to a winning streak of 22 straight wins.
Real Madrid’s form started to suffer in the new year, and the Real Madrid fans started to turn on Bale. During the course of a 3-0 win against Espanyol, a section of the Real Madrid fans started to boo Bale, later accusing him of being too selfish and shooting instead of passing to Ronaldo who they felt was in a better position.
The subsequent downturn in form also resulted in some disgruntled fans attacking the cars of Bale, striker Jese and Coach Carlo Ancelotti; these fans were subsequently fined and banned for 6 months from all sports stadiums.
This constant criticism and attack on his car clearly had a big effect on his performances (with injuries also playing a mitigating factor) and this was clearly shown in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final where his post-match statistics made for some nightmarish reading:
- Least amount of touches (32)
To put this statistic into context, Real Madrid’s Keeper, Iker Casillas had 44 touches and Juventus Keeper, Gianluigi Buffon has 34
- 18 passes
This is the least of any other Real Madrid player that started the match
- 0 chances created
This lead to Roy Keane’s scathing criticism of Bale, where he suggested that with Bale’s extremely limited involvement, Real Madrid were effectively playing with 10 men.
Spanish newspaper AS deemed his performance (or lack of) to be so bad that in the post-match analysis he was not even given a rating.
This is clearly a massive fall for a player who, two seasons ago, commanded the largest fee ever paid for a player, but is this fall entirely down to Bale’s confidence or are there other factors?
Bale has not had an easy time with injuries, he was injured back in October which caused him to miss 4 games, a calf injury in March disrupted his training, and another calf injury in April caused him to miss 3 games.
Some would argue that these injuries (especially the calf injury in April) have stunted his performances, with him being played before he was fully fit. This is especially true of the game against Juventus as it was his first game back after a 2-week absence and some questioned his inclusion into the starting line-up for such a crucial game.
Not receiving the ball from his teammates
Bale’s agent has suggested that Bale is working hard for the team but the passes are just not going in his direction. There is some suggestion that this might be true. Against Juventus he covered an average of 113 metres per minute which shows that he is working hard and making runs but his teammates aren’t sending the ball his way.
It’s clear for everyone to see that Real Madrid’s performances suffer when Luke Modric isn’t playing – they rely on him to sit in front of the defence and keep the team ticking. He provides that cover for the defence whilst looking for that forward pass which enables Madrid to successfully link their defence and attack. This is the role which Xabi Alonso had done so well before leaving for Bayern Munich.
With Luka Modric injured, Madrid have suffered and have found it difficult to replace the former Tottenham man, even resorting to playing Sergio Ramos in the midfield against Atletico Madrid.
Clearly there are many different factors to the decline of Gareth Bale’s form. Although none serious, injuries have disrupted his season, he has also found it hard to integrate with his teammates, and the lack of team balance due to Modric’s injury have all played their part.
Bale is still a world-class talent who is capable of producing some amazing feats of skill and athleticism and the hope is that the Madrid fans will rediscover their love for a man who is still finding his feet in Spain and at Real Madrid. For the moment, he will have to work through the fans using him as a scapegoat for the downturn in Madrid’s form and rediscover the form which persuaded Madrid to break the world transfer record for him.
Bale’s goals/assists statistics this year are on par with Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard‘s, who was named as the FA player of the year with 13 goals and 9 assists in 30 games.
In an interview after the Champions League semi-final defeat, Bale has come out saying he will be ‘stronger’ next year. Although he accepts his shooting has not been as good as usual, he hasn’t let the criticism affect him saying ‘There have been some ups and downs but I think I’ve played well’.
With the fans on his back, the Welshman’s time at Real Madrid could be coming to an end, earlier than anyone predicted. Manchester United are at the forefront of the queue to sign Bale, with Sunday Express journalist John Richardson saying the transfer is a ‘done deal’. The transfer is even more likely should they lose inspirational goalkeeper David De Gea this summer.
With Real Madrid not likely to win anything this season, if he does stay the fans will be hoping he, along with his superstar teammates can regain their confidence and find the winning formula to battle on all fronts next season.
Let us know through our social media channels whether you think Bale will be making a return back to the Premier League, or whether you think he will stick it out and try to change the Madrid fans’ minds. Either way he is still only 25 and is still likely to improve and have a massive impact in whatever team he plays for.