When Real Madrid signed Gareth Bale from Tottenham for 86 million pounds (most expensive football player in history) he was heralded as the next George Best and for good reason too, because he could do things like these to “good sides in important games”:
Real Madrid signed a Gareth Bale who was set over to take over the mantle of being the most explosive player on the planet and about whom Jeff Stelling said “He is better than Cristiano Ronaldo“. However, after the first season (where Gareth Bale scored two mammoth goals, which Messi would only dream of, against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the finals of Copa Del Rey and Champions League respectively) of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, we saw a Gareth Bale whose priorities had changed and basically his whole mental game had gone out of whack, which led him to try out embarrassing acts like this one over here:
So what did go wrong? Well according to some ‘experts’ it was the fault of Real Madrid’s home crowd. They booed him too much and wanted too much of him. Damn right, Real Madrid fans wanted more of him. You kind of expect that of a player who was bought for a 100 million dollars. Some experts in Spain blamed Ronaldo of all people to affect Gareth Bale’s game at Real Madrid. They seem to miss the point that these guys a professionals. They have been doing this for more hours than we can count. Being a professional, Gareth Bale should (if what some experts in Spain are saying is true) have had no problems in playing with Ronaldo neither have any problems adjusting to a new system.
Here is why I think Gareth Bale started to go downhill from the start of his second season and onwards:
- Gareth Bale for whatever reason got mentally disturbed. His whole game was off. He started to run less and with less purpose. I don’t know if it’s the weather in Spain or the critics at Marca but the one thing Gareth Bale did not have from his first season at Real Madrid was a clear singular sense of purpose and drive while he was on the field. Most of the time Gareth Bale looked lethargic, almost uninterested in the game. Huge losses to Atletico Madrid and Juventus in Copa Del Rey and Champions League did not seem to affect Gareth Bale. At no point in those games did he give the impression of trying hard for the team neither did he show any signs of urgency.
- Gareth Bale started to pass where he was supposed to shoot and started to shoot where he was supposed to pass the ball to a teammate. Some say it was because of the pressure put on him by Ronaldo. That is unreasonable to say the least. There are 10 other players beside Bale and none has ever complained about Ronaldo in that aspect. Ronaldo does want the ball but there is little wrong with that mentality as that comes naturally to some players. It doesn’t mean that one gets flustered by every request a teammate makes for the ball. Gareth Bale totally lost his rhythm towards the end of the season. Even in the beginning he looked like a player who was out of form and in bad shape. Gareth Bale still had (and probably has)the ability to go past players at will with his God gifted speed and he ,for sure, had the technique to make those long balls and to finish off chances against weaker teams, but he did not. Why? Because he did not have much confidence in his game (for whatever reason, but we know in the end he blamed Ronaldo) and neither had his head in the right place.
- Gareth Bale, without realising this himself, became predictable and stale. I think Gareth Bale, after the great first season he had, took things a bit too lightly. The thing is ,in a league like La Liga, players start to recognize your patterns of play when you become as big a player as Gareth Bale became in his first season at Real Madrid. Teams draw specific plans and have specific tactics to stop elite players. Gareth Bale is an elite player but somehow he failed to realise the responsibility that comes with being elite. Being elite means that you have to constantly work on your game no matter how far ahead of the pack you are. Players like Messi and Ronaldo did not start off as strong and as complete as Gareth Bale did but they kept on improving their game, in every aspect, season by season. Gareth Bale has not improved a single aspect of his game since his arrival from Tottenham. He still has those free kicks, those long runs with the ball 10 feet ahead of him. What has changed is that defenders now know what Gareth Bale has got and what he hasn’t got. Bale has to develop more weapons in his arsenal and needs to sharpen himself in terms of his already great skills like his shoot, speed, dribble and free kick.
Gareth Bale failed to develop as a player at Real Madrid. He came with a big game from Tottenham and still has that game. The problem is, he still has the exact same game. Defenders now know how to stifle his game. Gareth Bale has not improved at the rate Messi and Ronaldo are, still, improving even though they are head and shoulders above the rest.
Bale needs to get some guidance, from past legends if it helps, on how to make his game unpredictable. He needs to learn on how to play each game a little bit different so that teams have a harder time in figuring him out. He needs to unlearn his patterns or even better, learn some more patterns so that he can surprise teams with each game.