From the most expensive footballer six years ago to a seemingly unwanted substitute, Gareth Bale appears to have blown it at the Bernabéu.
When he was transferred from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid in September 2013 for a then-record sum of £85 million, it was a dream move for him. At Tottenham, Bale had blossomed and won the PFA player of the year award twice in 2011 and 2013. Other than these, he never won any other honours.
He is not alone. He is one of five players that won the Player of the Year Award in the last eight years who finished their seasons without any silverware. However, that would all change at Real Madrid. He would go on to win four Champions League winner medals along with three UEFA Super Cup medals. In addition, he picked up gongs for La Liga champions, Copa Del Rey and the UEFA Super Cup.
But six years after arriving at the Bernabéu, it appears the club are desperate to get rid of him. To make matters worse, it is reported that he and Zinedine Zidane (manager of Los Blancos) are no longer on speaking terms. So, what went wrong?
Bale made a strong start when he first donned the famous all-white strip of Real Madrid. It was capped by a superb solo effort of a goal that saw Los Blancos beat arch-rivals Barcelona in the Spanish Cup Final in 2014. He looked worth every penny of the record transfer fee.
His second season at the Bernabéu did not go so well. The team ran into a poor patch of form and Bale, in particular, was singled out by the Spanish media for criticism. He was, however, still scoring some spectacular goals and making regular, telling assists.
But the beginning of his downfall was to unfold in the 2016/2017 season that followed. He began to become even more injury-prone. Manager Zinedine Zidane could no longer rely on the Welshman being able available to play. With Bales regular absences, Zidane decided to change the playing formation of the team. He used a midfield diamond shape.
The use of this tactic was beginning to undermine Bale’s importance in the manager’s mind, and it signalled the beginning of the deterioration in the two men’s working relationship.
In the 2017/2018 season, Bale was still hanging in there, though his performances lacked consistency. However, he still managed to produce moments of brilliance. His two goals when he came on as a substitute against Liverpool in the Champions League showed his value – especially that magnificent overhead volley. It still rates as one of the competition’s best goals ever.
The key thing to remember in terms of Bale’s current position is that he had again come on as a substitute. He had not enjoyed the best of seasons, although that superb overhead was the stuff of footballing legend for Los Blancos supporters. Unfortunately for the Welshman, Zidane still saw Bale as being expendable.
It was Bale’s temperament that was to prove his final undoing. In the aftermath of his spectacular goal and amid the celebrations going on in the stadium, he revealed the fact that he was considering his future at Real which did not go down well with the fans.
The only reason that Gareth Bale stayed on at the Bernabéu was the fact that Zidane resigned. Cristiano Ronaldo also left the club, and it left a big void which Bale and other top players were unable to fill.
Bale’s temperament continued to undermine his position. Even when he scored a fine goal in the derby game with Atletico, he ruined it with a hand gesture that the fans construed as “up yours.” To make matters worse, two weeks later, having scored from the penalty spot against Levante, he brusquely pushed teammate Lucas Vazquez away when he attempted to celebrate his goal.
Zinedine Zidane’s return to the Bernabéu was not good news for Bale. At the end of last season when Bale was left on the bench for the final game against Real Betis, he stalked off straight down the tunnel without acknowledging the crowd at all, possibly out of anger of being left out.
The seal is now set for the Welshman to leave Los Blancos. The goal in the pre-season friendly against Arsenal is too little too late. It just goes to prove that no matter how good the player, no one is bigger than the club.
Bale had recently been linked with a move to China. However, he and his agent have reportedly dismissed the offer which would have been worth £15 million per annum for two years.
There has been talk of a return to Spurs, but it is unlikely they will be able to afford his demands. It is also rumoured he could move to Bayern Munich, Manchester United, or PSG. Only time will tell.