Real Madrid paid Tottenham Hotspur a world-record transfer fee of £85 million in the summer of 2013 in order to secure the services of Gareth Bale. The move was completed on the final day of the transfer window and stunned the footballing world. Bale had established himself as one of the best players in the Premier League during his time at Spurs, and it was only a matter of time before Madrid came calling. However, the transfer fee of £85m was more than what Madrid paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2009, and the question was whether the Welshman would be able to live up to his price-tag.
As things turned out in subsequent seasons, Bale has been worth the investment for Madrid. The Wales international winger played a key role in Los Blancos’ Champions League triumphs in 2014 and 2016 and in their Copa del Rey success during the 2013-14 campaign. In fact, despite an injury-ridden season in 2013-14, Bale conquered the hearts of all Madrid fans with his goals in the finals of the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Bale is, without doubt, one of the best footballers on the planet and a world-class player. The former Spurs star is second only to Ronaldo at Madrid in terms of stature and influence. If the Portugal international forward were not at the Santiago Bernabeu, then the 27-year-old would be the lynchpin at the European champions.
Bale has long been touted as a future Ballon d’Or award, but when will his time come? In fact, will it even come? Ronaldo is not showing signs of slowing down despite being almost 32 years of age and neither is Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who is only two years older than Bale. Then there are Luis Suarez and Neymar, who plays who have already become legends at Barcelona. With so much competition, does Bale have a real shot at winning the Ballon d’Or or the Best FIFA Men’s Player award in the next two or three years?
Bale’s time at Madrid has been affected by injuries. So far this season the Welshman has been able to feature in only 11 La Liga matches due to an ankle problem, but he has still scored five goals and created 16 chances. Madrid are priced at 8/15 by Betway to win the league title this season, and one can only wonder what the odds would have been had Bale been fit and been playing the way he usually does. With the winger’s goals and creativity, Zinedine Zidane’s side could have been miles ahead of the chasing pack.
One gets the feeling that as long as Ronaldo and Messi are around, no other player has a chance of winning major individual honours. The duo have shared the Ballon d’Or since 2008, and it is going to be extremely hard to break the duopoly. However, Bale should not give up. What he needs is patience and he must play to the best of his ability. The Tottenham midfielder finished sixth in the 2016 Ballon d’Or votes, and he should aim to build on that in 2017.
The former Southampton winger has to be more assertive during matches and take more responsibility. Bale has played well under head coach Zidane at Madrid, but he needs to start stepping into the limelight and get himself on par with Ronaldo in terms of status. If the Portuguese wants to play as a centre-forward, then Bale has to take advantage of the space behind him and create chances for him. The Welshman has to start showing that he can be the main man at Madrid even with Ronaldo in the team. If he is able to do that over the coming months, then he could be a genuine Ballon d’Or contender for 2017.