Christian Bale’s Batman once said:
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”
What does this have to do with football you might ask? Well, Batman was a much maligned figure, one that was chastised for helping, with many wondering whether he was actually doing good, or if he was a menace. It seems for all the world that Gareth Bale is suffering very similar treatment at Real Madrid.
Of course, we aren’t advocating that Bale is donning a mask and marauding the streets of Madrid at night, saving the needy – but we can’t rule that out either.
The Welshman was touted as the long-term replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo after usurping him as the world’s most expensive player, signing for around £85million in 2013.
The left-footed player has embarked upon quite possibly the most difficult road he could have trodden upon though, with the Madridistas notoriously hard to please. Added to this, his price tag was always going to inhibit unfair expectations, with the same happening to Paul Pogba at Manchester United.
The winger has been very good for the Spanish side, though, with his abilities continuing to develop. He scored the winning goal in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona as he made Marc Bartra look silly:
Gareth Bale vs Barcelona (2014). pic.twitter.com/PWjbu8zZcA
— FootballGoals (@FootballGoaIs) 30 March 2017
This has caused Bale’s performances to suffer, with the Welshman expected to give Ronaldo the ball, and if he doesn’t, the pressure on him to score is monumental.
He is very akin to a young Ronaldo, though: incredibly fast, lightning quick feet, powerful and is comfortable scoring on either foot with tap-ins, drilled shots or long range efforts. All this ability is why the fans should have taken to him, but they haven’t totally done so. Therefore, there must be another reason for this.
Perhaps, and it will anger every Welsh fan to hear this, is that he hasn’t actually been playing that well. For Wales, he plays the kingpin in a sup-par team. The likes of Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams are good players, but they are in no way world-class. This means that when any of his teammates get the ball, they are inclined to immediately pass it to him.
His reputation precedes him for Wales too, with players petrified of playing against him. For Real Madrid though, they quite often play against teams with good defences in the Champions League, meaning his impact is stunted. Whilst against the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, he struggles to have a big impact against the better drilled sides.
His pace is impressive and his tendency for the spectacular makes him entertaining to watch, but what sets Lionel Messi and Ronaldo apart is their ability to have a huge impact in almost every game and play consistently.
For Bale, he struggles with fading in and out of a game, while his injury problems have hugely hindered his last few seasons.
Bale’s performances last year warranted the fan fare, with 24 goals and 14 assists in all competitions. However, he only played 39 games across the season.
This campaign, he has scored 12 goals and recorded three assists, making just 30 appearances. In two seasons though, Bale has scored 30 goals and 15 assists in 58 appearances, which isn’t good enough for the high standards of Real.
In conjunction with this is the fact he has appeared less than 60 times across two seasons, with Madrid often contesting the latter stages of all of the cup competitions they enter into, meaning there has been a lot of potential games he could have played in. Perhaps his scoring rate isn’t the problem, it is instead his inability to play consistently.
Bale is undoubtedly a fine player, and he will continue to improve as he plays more. However, until he can shake his injury problems and see out Ronaldo’s tenure as the number one, he will forever be a player that was just not quite good enough for Madrid.
This is where that seemingly out of place Batman quote comes in. It is likely that Bale will either stay with Los Blancos so long that the fans turn against him, as some have started to do with record breaker Ronaldo. Or, he will leave and they will only then realise how good he was.
Is he a Galactico yet? No. Can he become one? Of course. Will the fans ever truly love him though? Unfortunately, no.