Has Gareth Bale been a success at Real Madrid?

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid at Estadio de la Ceramica on February 26, 2017 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images)
VILLARREAL, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid at Estadio de la Ceramica on February 26, 2017 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images) /

With rumours of his departure and a potential return back to the Premier League, has Gareth Bale been a success at Real Madrid?

The summer of 2013 was a big transfer window for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, both teams were preparing to battle for supremacy once again but this time seemed like a new era after finally being removed from the Pep Guardiola vs Jose Mourinho battles.

Both teams had new managers – with Real Madrid having signed Carlo Ancelotti as their new manager from Paris Saint-Germain while Barcelona had hired Tata Martino that summer. But it wasn’t just the battles of the managers or the typical battles between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for supremacy but a whole new one that summer – Gareth Bale vs Neymar.

Barcelona had managed to pip Real Madrid to signing Neymar that summer and in response had signed Gareth Bale for a then world record fee of £80 million from Tottenham Hotspur. There was much expected from the Welshmen, Bale was coming off a terrific season where he had become only the second player in history after Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007 to win the PFA’s Players’ Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year and the FWA Player of the Year awards in one season.

Both Bale and Neymar were both expected to give the Madrid/Barcelona rivalry another dimension with expected to also challenge Ronaldo & Messi for the spots of being the ‘ace’ of their teams.

However, more of the pressure was on Bale than it was on Neymar. Bale was the one who broke the transfer record – although it is believed that Neymar may have unofficially cost more than he did- and he was the one coming from the Premiership.

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He had terrorized English defences for many seasons; almost carried a poor Tottenham team under Andre Villas-Boas to the Champions League on his shoulders and many were desperate to finally see a British player finally rise to the occasion and slot into one of, if not the, biggest teams in the world and justify his price tag. David Beckham, Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Owen had gone over there in recent memory, with Beckham not being bad for Madrid but not being the success that he was at Manchester United, Woodgate plagued by injuries during his time in Spain along with his entire career and Owen struggling to get into the team before quickly moving back to England to play for Newcastle United.

This was different from those three, Bale was just entering the prime of his career and many believed that he could be the one to dethrone Cristiano Ronaldo as the king of Madrid, a future Ballon d’Or. Neymar might have been seen as somebody at the time that could have been the best of his generation, but many at the time were left unconvinced about the Brazilian who had only played in the Brazilian league at the time.

It’s hard to judge Bale’s career at Real Madrid, it’s been one that he’s been nothing but plagued by injury after injury. Perhaps a bad omen, but he did join the club carrying an injury to begin with which caused a frustrating season for him but yet that first season at Madrid is the most defining season for him as a player, all from only two games.

The first coming in the Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona where he showed why Madrid broke the transfer record for him – embarrassing Marc Bartra by outmuscling him on the ball, beating him with blistering pace and slotting the ball into the back of the net to score the winner late on before Bartra could even tell what had just happened to him.

The second coming in the Champions League final, a game where Bale was largely ineffective throughout until it came to extra-time, where he scored the second goal to give Madrid the lead before they slotted in another two goals to finally win their long-awaited tenth Champions League.

And that has been the zenith of his career so far in Spain. He’s been unable to dethrone Ronaldo as the man in Madrid and has found himself looking on the outside looking in. Constant injuries have prevented him from playing as much, with his appearances for Madrid lessening for the last two seasons and his effectiveness when he is playing as well – he only made nineteen league appearances with nine goals. His place in the team is nowhere a starter, as the emergence of Isco and Ascensio has meant that he is no long missed if he is not playing – case in point for the Champions League final this year against Juventus.

It was the biggest game of the season, a chance for Madrid to make history as the first team to retain the Champions League since the late 1980s and it was in Bale’s hometown. A lack of match fitness meant that Bale was unable to start the game but it didn’t matter that he was not playing anyway as Madrid didn’t need on the pitch.

There is a chance that Bale does leave this summer and he would have no shortage of suitors looking for him, especially in the Premiership as Manchester United have always been linked with a move for him ever since he was at Tottenham. But it is hard to imagine that he will leave this summer, but if he does stay this season will be the biggest one yet for him. Another season like the last two and it will spell the end of him in Spain, he’ll be turning twenty-nine next summer and Madrid have become more focused on youth with no shortage of replacements available to take his place.

Bale has been by no means a failure but he also hasn’t been the massive success that he was expected to be either. It is interesting in the summer where Neymar has left Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain, it is for a world record fee where he is expected to be the main man at PSG to help guide them to win the Champions League and many expect them to a Ballon d’Or winner in the future whereas Bale is now fighting for his place at Madrid and if he is to leave, it is because he is deemed surplus of requirements for Real Madrid.

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It is a big downfall for Bale, he should be in his prime at the moment and he should be in contention for the Ballon d’Or but at the moment, he’s far away from doing so. He’s still a great player and on his day, he can be the game-changing player that he was at Tottenham but those days are becoming far and few between.