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gareth bale wales serbia

Five years, four Champions League titles, two Super Cups, two Club World Cups, one SuperCopa, one Copa Del Rey, One La Liga title. It’s not such a shabby record.

It belongs to Gareth Bale, who, since making the move to Santiago Bernabeu in 2013, has achieved everything he set out to achieve.

However, despite it raining silverware since Gareth Bale’s arrival, supporters of Los Blancos remain unconvinced.

Gareth Bale, who has scored 70 league goals in 126 league appearances in the Spanish capital – the majority from out wide – is yet to fully win over the club’s supporters.

Why? There are a plethora of reasons, but the first, well, call it high standards. There’s no doubt that ‘superhuman’ Cristiano Ronaldo has impacted the thoughts and indeed the standards of Real Madrid supporters.

The Portuguese rewrote history during his time at the Bernabeu and consequently, the bar was quickly raised.

gareth bale wales serbia
Gareth Bale against Serbia in the World Cup qualifiers – Image:

Bale, despite being a world-beater himself, was never going to live up to that level of expectation, despite being expected to as a fellow Galactico.

That’s not a criticism. Only two players in the world – Messi being the other – can achieve such heights and they, quite rightly, have forged their place in history because of that ability.

However, that’s not the only reason Bale hasn’t been adored by supporters. His failure to learn Spanish certainly hasn’t helped.

It hasn’t helped his integration with team-mates, and it hasn’t helped him in his bid to become closer with supporters. His lack of interaction with the media because of his non-bilingualism has been an issue.

And that falls on top of the fact that it’s naturally difficult to please a Spanish audience when you’re not a local, or you’re not even close to being local.

That hasn’t always been the case. Real Madrid have for many decades been an international club, shipping in Galacticos from all over the world, until very recently.

The emergence of Spanish talent such as Isco, Asensio, Lucas Vasquez and many more has created a patriotism at the Bernabeu.

And that makes things even more difficult for Bale. Especially when he is, in terms of performance and consistency, quite often matched by these players.

That brings us onto the next point. 

gareth bale wales serbia
Gareth Bale surrounded by Serbian defenders in the World Cup qualifier

As Welshmen and women, we might want to believe that Gareth Bale is up there with the very best in the world – and perhaps he is – but he has no divine right to stay there.

Yes, his magical performances in a Welsh shirt and clips of fantastic goals for Real Madrid keep our belief in his ability ticking over.

However, the truth is that he hasn’t done it enough for Real Madrid. 

The stats read well. Bale scored 24 goals in 41 games last season, which isn’t such a bad record, but at Real Madrid, it isn’t enough.

Bale started last season as the number one striker following Cristiano Ronaldo’s SuperCopa red card and subsequent suspension.

And it’s fair to say that Bale wasted the opportunity, performing poorly until he lost his place, much to the delight of the frustrated Real Madrid faithful.

Then, following a stunning display in Dortmund, injury saw him miss more than two months of action, by which time, Barcelona had run away with the La Liga title. That only fuelled more frustration from supporters and the Spanish press, who were tired of never-fit Bale.

It wasn’t all bad, however, towards the end of the season, Bale picked up a nice run of form and after rightly starting the Champions League final from the bench…we all know what happened next.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Gareth Bale’s sensational bicycle kick saves his Real Madrid career. Make no bones about it.

Cristiano Ronaldo then goes on to depart, but crucially after Bale has bettered a stunning bicycle kick the Portuguese had scored against his new club Juventus months before.

That’s important because Madridistas need to believe that what they have is the best. It’s bred into them from a young age.

Gareth Bale’s goal in that Champions League final could only have come from one of the best.

He’s still a Galactico and in that moment, president Florentino Perez knows that Bale still has a part to play at Real Madrid.

Even if it wasn’t until Ronaldo’s departure that he realised just how big a part he could play.

Now arises Bale’s golden opportunity. Real Madrid haven’t – at least not yet – replaced Ronaldo, if there is such a possibility.

Their star signing is a goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois and Bale has been handed the opportunity of a lifetime.

He gets to be Galactico number one in a new era, led by former Spain boss Julen Lopetegui following the departure of Zinedine Zidane – a manager Bale didn’t see eye-to-eye with.

Lopetegui sees Bale’s role differently and, ahead of the UEFA Super Cup against capital city rivals Athletico Madrid in Estonia, has already started making the right noises:

“We’re a team, the team is the main part. What he [Bale] can bring to the team is his ability and mentality and we’re convinced he’ll have a great season.”  Julen Lopetegui, Real Madrid manager.

This is the biggest chance he will ever get to convince Real Madrid supporters and he simply has to take it.

The BBC has become the BBA with Bale, Benzema and Asensio now set to lead the Real Madrid attack and golden boy Isco will sit in behind.

It’s a new era and one without Cristiano Ronaldo. One that many believe can only fail, it’s downhill from here.

But the responsibility lies on the shoulders of Gareth Bale to prove otherwise. 

He finally has the opportunity to step out of Ronaldo’s shadow and into the light, but he must stay fit, he must score goals and he must force Madridistas to sing his name.

Anything less and he will have failed to reach his potential at Real Madrid, a club with the highest expectations in the world. Anything less, and he risks leaving the Spanish capital having been a four-time Champions League winner, yet an unconvincing success.

Jamie Kemble is a football journalist and founder of Inside Wales Sport. Hailing from Aberdare it was natural for him to become a Villarreal fan as a youngster. He sometimes tweets in Spanish, sometimes about his dog and sometimes he tweets in Spanish about his dog. No, no one knows why.

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