This really is one of the game’s strangest tales. Gareth Bale has won no less than FOUR European Cups at Real Madrid; scoring arguably the most incredible goal in a Champions League final ever along the way. While most clubs would contemplate putting up a statue of him, Real Madrid fans seem happy to see the back of the Welshman.
A deal has finally been struck to get Bale out of Madrid and his destination is back to where he became one of the world’s mercurial midfielders. He heads to Spurs, his initial springboard, in a match-up that has received mixed reactions.
Bale at Spurs sounds box office. On paper, it should be brilliant. There is however one issue: time waits for no one.
If Tottenham are getting the Gareth Bale who got fans off their seats, had a creative flair like no other, and terrorized Premier League defences for fun, then we’re onto a winner.
If, on the other hand, Tottenham are getting a 31-year old whose love for the game has diminished and who would rather be on the golf course, then we’re stuck in the rough.
It’s hard to answer what type of player Bale is these days. It’s been so long since he’s played consistently that we simply don’t know. He started just one game of the 12 Madrid played after the season restart and played only a handful before that. He’s never really been a part of the Real Madrid team, despite checking out with no fewer than 16 major trophies. Oh, and his goal-scoring return? 105 goals in 251 appearances, notching 61 assists en route too. He has been brilliant when called on.
Physically, he’s still in top shape, he’s still world-class. His talent is there but he hasn’t had a clear run of games to express himself. Zidane’s relationship with his player has left the football world stunned. There’s so much of the unknown there and you really hope that a sprinkle of love is all Bale needs.
Wales, Golf, Madrid
It is clear that Zidane and Bale could have both done more and achieved even greater things. Bale constantly looked disengaged and was an outsider at Madrid. Real Madrid are a clicky type of club and his apparent lack of effort in learning Spanish is often mentioned. It often looked awkward, but there is an element of the unknown. His napping on the subs bench, passing over the club banner during the team photo and not celebrating their latest Liga triumph spoke volumes.
His priorities in Spain shifted and he did not look like he had the character, or desire, to try to break into Zidane’s plans. Were his hands tied? As far as he was concerned, he had no issues cashing his giant paycheck at the end of each week, so sitting back and relaxing was the easy and appealing option. Maybe the pair just didn’t respect each other enough to work on their relationship. Zidane never said much to Bale, not even after he single-handedly won Real Madrid the 2018 Champions League Final against Liverpool. Even on that glorious evening, Bale’s celebration was far too subdued and left us all, once more, studying his body language.
It’s all too tough to solve, but will Bale’s priorities change in the Premier League, or will Spurs not manage to reignite his fuse?
Does Jose have the key?
On top of it all, there’s the Jose Mourinho factor. If Zidane couldn’t get the best out of Bale (and yes, it’s odd to type that Bale wasn’t his best despite his massive contribution to his club), can Mourinho? Is the Jose Mourinho of 2020 the type of manager who can still bring the best out of elite athletes? Mourinho is another of those characters the sport simply isn’t getting enough from. Bale barely looks like the self-motivated athlete the team needs him to be, and Mourinho is more of a tactician than a motivator. This will be a truly interesting soap opera in North London, with more appeal than the All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur series currently being aired on Amazon.
It is tragic that no one in Spain will be sad to see him go. He won’t leave a good impression, he won’t merit any form of ovation, despite his obvious talent and contribution. This was no flop signing. This was no sad case of an injury-riddled career. This is just a case of lack of playing time. His goalscoring return at Madrid was brilliant, but yet no one will miss him in Spain.
His botched transfer to China last season did not help matters, but at last, Bale is out of Madrid and hopefully back to where he belongs: The Premier League!