Why Gareth Bale will shine with return to the Premier League

27th January 2019, Cornella-El Prat, Cornella de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain; La Liga football, Espanyol versus Real Madrid; Gareth Bale of Real Madrid celebrates as he scores the goal for 1-4 in the 67th minute (photo by Eric Alonso/Action Plus via Getty Images)
27th January 2019, Cornella-El Prat, Cornella de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain; La Liga football, Espanyol versus Real Madrid; Gareth Bale of Real Madrid celebrates as he scores the goal for 1-4 in the 67th minute (photo by Eric Alonso/Action Plus via Getty Images) /

The Welshman’s “Galáctico” talent has never been truly appreciated at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

A fanbase notorious for disparaging its own stars appears set to drive out a star winger for the second consecutive summer, as Gareth Bale finally looks to make his long-awaited return to the Premier League.

"“They should be ashamed of themselves,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett said. “The way Real fans have treated Gareth is nothing short of a disgrace. In the six years he has been in Spain, he has won everything. Those fans should be kissing his feet.”"

At most clubs around Europe, Bale would be unequivocally praised as one of the world’s best players when fit, but even he cannot live up to the Merengues unrealistic expectations. Bale has delivered throughout his career in the Spanish capital, with 101 goals and 63 assists to his name across 222 games, and has been a key cog in Real’s recent Champions League dominance.

The mercurial wide man has helped Los Blancos lift Europe’s premier trophy four times out of the last five years, with his stint in Madrid culminating in a stunning substitute appearance in last season’s Champions League Final against Liverpool. Bale entered with the game level at 1-1 in the 61st minute before setting the match alight, scoring a scintillating bicycle kick to give Real the lead before putting the tie to rest by capitalizing on a horrendous error by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius from distance.

Nonetheless, his own fans and teammates have turned on him this season. The Welshman has not found favor in the eyes of interim manager Santiago Solari, while teammates Marcelo and Thibaut Courtois have publicly aired their issues with Bale, citing his inability to connect with the dressing room because he has not learned Spanish. 

Courtois referred to Bale as “the golfer” and called him out for not going out late with the team due to the fact that it was past his bedtime.  

Meanwhile on the pitch, he has constantly been in the crosshairs of both Madridista fans and media and is a popular scapegoat for his team’s lack of success this campaign. This is not the first time Real Madrid have turned on one of their own stars, however. Cristiano Ronaldo, the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, was a common target of abuse from his own fans and noted that one of the factors leading to his summer transfer to Juventus in 2018 was the greater sense of appreciation he felt from Bianconeri fans relative to those in Spain. 

Following years of speculation, it appears as though Bale’s time in Madrid will finally come to an end this summer and that he will make his much-anticipated return to English football. The Welshman began his career at Southampton before starring with Tottenham Hotspur, recording 56 goals and 58 assists in 203 appearances for the club, which lead to his then-record £85.3 million move to Spain.

Whichever club will sign Bale is undoubtedly bringing in one of European football’s elite talents. He was the centerpiece of a Welsh national team that reached Euro 2016, the country’s first major tournament since 1958, a huge accomplishment in itself. He then went on to lead the Red Dragons on a shock run to the semi-final stage where they lost to eventual champions Portugal, with Bale finishing as the tournament’s joint-second top scorer.

Bale would fit into nearly all of the league’s top six sides, but the clubs that have been most-heavily linked include Manchester United and a return to Tottenham.

The winger would bring a much-needed spark into the Red Devils, who lack a true right-sided attacker. The side’s recent renaissance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would lend itself nicely to Bale’s skillset, which features blistering pace and world-class technical ability combined with a finisher’s touch from nearly any distance.

Bale could serve as a veteran presence in the final third alongside the blossoming young duo of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as England’s most accomplished side look to return to the Premier League summit for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2012-13.

While an emotional return to his former club has been rumored, it is unlikely. Spurs became the first club in Premier League history to go consecutive windows without making a single signing this January, and have been severely financially handicapped when compared to the rest of the league’s top sides.

Chairman Daniel Levy has been heavily invested in the club’s £1 billion stadium project on the site of White Hart Lane, and it therefore would most likely take one of Tottenham’s current stars leaving the club to finance a potential Bale transfer. Spurs attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen has reportedly been linked with a move to Real Madrid, and there are rumors that a potential swap with cash involved could be on the cards.

Perhaps Spurs’ unique transfer policy over the last two windows could be a part of a master plan to pair a marquee signing in Bale with the club’s first full season at the new stadium. Spurs, whom have an excellent squad, have been unable to claim a trophy during the Mauricio Pochettino era, but perhaps Bale could be the final piece in a title-winning puzzle.

Next. Could Kevin De Bruyne's injury derail Man City's season?. dark

While Bale has been criminally underappreciated during his time in Madrid, the two-time former PFA Players’ Player of the Year remains one of the sport’s biggest stars. His time in Spain will leave a mixed legacy, but his return to England will fill a void that the league has missed for six years. Once again, Premier League fans will rejoice as the Welshman streaks down the right flank, whether it be at Old Trafford or perhaps even the new White Hart Lane.