If Real Madrid were informed that the capture of Gareth Bale, signed from Tottenham in September 2013 for a then world-record fee of £85.3m, would lead to the Welsh wide-man playing his part in helping the Spanish giants to three La Liga titles and a monumental five Champions League triumphs then surely the Bernabeu side would have to concede that it was money well spent. However, there is a sense that things haven’t quite panned out as Real and the club’s fans would have hoped.
The odds on Bale collecting this amount of silverware would have been astronomical, and any punter with an interest in matched betting would have made a killing had they predicted such successes, but the talented forward will now be contemplating the next chapter in his career, and that may well mean a permanent return to the Premier League.
Much Anticipated Arrival
Clearly, when you are the world’s most expensive footballer, then the level of expectation will be high, and Gareth Bale rose to the challenge. British exports to Europe don’t always fare well; you only have to look at Bale’s fellow countryman Mark Hughes to see how such moves can sometimes fail to deliver the goods.
Bale, on the other hand, got off to a flying start. The young winger had a standout season at White Hart Lane, bagging 26 goals in all competitions and impressing at the Champions League level, and was ready to wow the masses in Spain.
In his first season, he scored 22 goals, one of which came in the Champions League final win over city rivals Atletico in Lisbon, but the icing on the cake came via his superb solo effort in the Copa Del Rey Final.
Bale picked up the ball inside his own half and beat full-back Marc Bartra and sped on, going through the gears, past a host of Barcelona players before slotting home the winner in the 85th minute, and at that moment, he should have become a Real Madrid hero for life, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
Not a Yes Man
Gareth Bale is a strong-willed man, both on and off the field of play, and this seemed to antagonise some within the club and certainly didn’t play well with the Spanish media, and they played their part in bringing down the Real Madrid man a peg or two.
Bale started 36 games in his first season at the club, and in the next two seasons, he was a regular and weighed in with strong numbers when it came to an end product both in terms of goals and assists.
For example, in his first three La Liga seasons, he racked up 47 goals and 33 assists over the course of 81 games, the kind of stats that would leave most salivating, and he was equally adept at Champions League level.
Things started to go sour, and from that point onwards, and for about half of his eight seasons at the club, he wasn’t a regular. However, this didn’t stop him from netting twice in the 2018 Champions League final, including THAT overhead kick, as Real Madrid eased past Liverpool.
Successive managers failed to show their trust in Bale, and the writing has been on the wall for some time. It was telling, however, that during this month’s parade, during which Real Madrid celebrated their La Liga and Champions League successes, the Welsh international received a warm reception from the fans.
This was perhaps an admission that Bale had done a great job when selected and that, in many ways, what he had achieved was only the tip of the iceberg he could have conquered had he played a more prominent part.
Nonetheless, he bagged 106 goals over the eight seasons he was at the club, and now, at 32, a new challenge is on the horizon.
There has been talk of a return to Tottenham, helped by the fact that Antonio Conte has helped the North London side back to the Champions League table, and Bale was effective during his loan spell at the club back in 2020-21 (where he scored 16 goals in all competitions).
Such a move could prove problematic for all parties. It’s unclear just how much game time Bale would get in the Spurs’ starting eleven, and he isn’t the type of player or personality to just eke out the remaining seasons of his career on the bench.
Therefore one imagines his next move would be to a club where he can play week in, week out. By all accounts, there are a number of Premier League sides who are keen on Bale but will be aware of his likely wage demands. Aston Villa are one side known to be keen on securing the veteran, and such a move is by no means implausible.
Bale will want to be playing regularly, especially if Wales secures their place in the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. Watch this space.