Gareth Bale joined Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur for a club record fee of £85 million and was given one mandate by Florentino Perez, one which the Welshman said at his unveiling; he was to help win the La Decima.
Prior to his arrival, Real Madrid had not won the Champions League in 12 years, and it was almost becoming too late to establish themselves as a modern-day giant. Barcelona were pulling clear, Bayern were becoming a fixture in the finals, Man United had appeared in 3 finals in some 4 years. However, Real Madrid were far away from achieving their dream of European glory despite changing coaches several times and spending huge sums in the transfer business.
But that season was the stuff of dreams as Real Madrid’s trio of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, the BBC, tore apart defences all across Europe sending their team to a first European final in 4 years. On that fateful night in Lisbon, Gareth Bale repaid his transfer fees with a header that turned the tie around. Sergio Ramos had equalised earlier in the game and Bale’s header was the crowning moment of a wonderful season.
He has however had ups and downs since his brilliant debut season, getting booed mercilessly as Los Blancos went trophyless in his second season, his relentless injury woes doing him no favours with the fickle and demanding Real Madrid fanbase.
The following season was nearly perfect for the Welshman as he won the Champions League and was instrumental in the pursuit of it. He also led Wales to a semi-final berth in the European Championships, and a big season beckoned. However, his injury woes reared its ugly head and concerns over his durability in the long term surfaced again, by the end of his fourth season, he had ‘won’ the La Liga and the Champions League but was out of the team as Isco made that slot his.
Bale has had issues with the injuries this season as well, but if there’s anything he has shown since returning from the injury, he’s the best bet for a renaissance for the European Champions. Real Madrid are currently going through one of their worst seasons in recent times, a whopping 19 points behind leaders, Barça, facing a monster PSG in the round of 16s of the Champions League.
Despite the fact that they’re odds-on favourites to make the semifinals of the Copa Del Rey, there’s still a sense that once they face off a strong opposition, they’ll wither and all of this brings the return of Bale into focus.
The Welshman has simply been brilliant since his return from injury, scoring in the Club World Cup, getting a brace that secured a point in Galicia. He also led the team from the front against Numancia and the best game yet, his role in the 7-1 pummelling of Deportivo La Coruña. While there might be concerns over the quality of the opposition, it’s worth pointing out that teams who have taken points off Real Madrid this season were never expected to do so. The return of the Cardiff Express could well be the galvaniser for a squad that needs a sprinkling of stardust.
Zidane has repeatedly insisted that he doesn’t need a winter signing as his squad is good enough to do whatever he wants and achieve success. His quotes have been met with disbelief among fans, journalists and pundits but as the Deportivo game showed, maybe there’s some truth to it because with a fit and firing Gareth Bale, the vigour and drive his pace and aerial ability adds to the team can’t be quantified. The bigger ties have yet to be navigated, and we’ll see if Zidane was right all along, the key to his faith lies in Gareth Bale, he could be the winter signing that wasn’t bought.