Gareth Ceidiog Hughes
Gareth Bale has finally left the viper pit of Real Madrid.
The Welsh soccer ball superstar has returned to Tottenham Hotspur on a one-season loan deal, after a torrid couple of years where he was frozen out by head coach Zinedine Zidane.
It is understood that Spurs will pay half of his gargantuan £650,000-per-week wages – with the La Liga champions covering the other. It is hoped that Bale will recapture some of the old magic that catapulted him to superstardom, now that he is back in a place where his talents and his efforts are appreciated.
Bale told BT Sport: “Obviously I have had a warm welcome in an environment where I am loved. I’m excited for the future.
“You are able to play your best football when you feel that love from the fans, so coming back knowing I would get a good reception.
“I love the club, I loved my time here so yeah I can feel that emotion and we can try and kick on and win a trophy or two. I want to enjoy my football and give the fans something to smile about.”
By any reasonable definition, his career at the club has been a success. But reasonableness and the madridistas are not natural bedfellows. They are the worst fans in the world and have treated him like dirt. He has been scorned, disrespected and criminally underappreciated.
Before Bale came along, the madridistas had been banging on about the possibility of La Décima for around a decade. La Décima refers to the tenth European Cup, which has mythical status in Madrid, and it had become an obsession of the club, its fans and its players. Los Blancos had been stuck on nine since the 2 – 1 win in the final against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002, where Zinedine Zidane scored the winner with a fine volley.
The elusiveness of La Décima was an enormous weight on the shoulders of the players. Then Gareth Bale breezed in with his reported world record price tag of £85.3 million and that changed. He popped up and scored the winning goal against city rivals Atlético Madrid during extra time in the 2014 UEFA Champions League Final. There you go lads. No problem. Sorted. This helped usher in a golden age at Real Madrid.
He also scored a spectacular overhead kick in the Champion’s League Final against Liverpool in 2018. Real won the game 3 – 1. It is considered to be the best Champion’s League final goal of all time, and he threw in another goal for good measure.
When you compare Bale’s record to those of other Real Madrid legends, he comes of very favourably indeed. In his seven years at the club he won two La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey, a Supercopa de España, two UEFA Super Cups, three FIFA Club World Cups, and to top it off an astonishing four Champions Leagues.
He scored a total of 105 goals and made 68 assists for Madrid in just 251 appearances. This is twice the number of goals Zidane scored with the club, and more assists. He also has more assists for the club than David Beckham.
He even has more goals for the club than El Fenomeno himself, the two-time Ballon d’Or winner, as well as two-time World cup winner, Ronaldo Nazario. Bale has won more trophies with the club than all of these legendary players. His record his exceptional.
Bale achieved all this during a time in which he was plagued by injuries. Had he not had those injuries that he could well have gone on to win the Ballon d’Or. There should be a statue of him outside the Santiago Bernabéu, but instead he has become a hate figure to many Real Madrid fans.
The difference between that and the esteem in which he is held by Spurs fans is stark. Contrast it to the reverence with which he is held in Wales, and the difference is starker still.
At Real Madrid, exceptional success achieved by Gareth Bale is characterised as failure. Let’s hope that he can show the world what he’s capable of this season. He certainly has a point to prove, and a great many people will be rooting for it to prove it.
One thing we do know is, if he does, here it will be appreciated for what it is.