Ever since Gareth Bale joined Real Madrid, not an instance has elapsed that the Spanish press stopped watching him with a microscope. The focus would not have so intense if Real had drafted Kaka or say Wayne Rooney, instead. The scribes are keeping track of Bale’s every small nuance with the hope of proving somehow that Real Madrid bosses have made a cardinal error in drafting him at an astronomically high price.
On October 26, 2013, Real boss Carlo Ancelotti chose Bale to play in Barcelona to make his El Clasico debut. All football fans know that El Clasico is that event in Spanish football, which features FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the traditional football rivals in Spain. It is an age-old rivalry since Madrid and Barcelona are Spain’s biggest cities and the two clubs are the world’s richest and most famous names in football. The whole of Spain have traditionally been an avid follower of any game that these two teams have played against each other. Though India is not a great football nation from world standards, there is a similarity to be found to Real’s rivalry with FC Barcelona, in the games that are played between Mohan Bagan and East Bengal in India in general, and Kolkata in particular.
Bale’s tenure with Real Madrid has so far been mired with injuries and since he was sitting on benches for some time, Ancelotti must have faced some media pressure as well. But as luck would have it, Bale failed to make any impact in the El Clasico game and was replaced in the 61st minute. During this period, two of Bale’s shot at the goal sailed over the bar and he was booked just before the half time. This provided a fresh fodder to the football press in calling him as the worst player of the game that day. In the El Clasico game, Bale also faced the misfortune of being compared with Brazilian wunderkind Neymar, who like Bale, is also a new addition to FC Barcelona this season. In sharp contrast to Bale’s debut performance, the Brazilian striker had a marvelous debut outing by opening the scoring to put Barcelona ahead in the 19th minute and kept playing great football until the end.
But all that changed for Bale in a matter of few days as he played a vastly improved game against Sevilla, scoring two goals early to put Real ahead. Then he provided two assists to help Cristiano Ronaldo score a hat-trick. Team mate Karim Benzema scored the other two goals, as Real thrashed Sevilla 7-3. Coach Ancelotti was a happy man since; this was the first game in which Bale completed 90 minutes of play-time after joining Real. Bale’s first goal was a beauty as his powerful sweep found the top corner of the net and then at the 30 minute mark, his free-kick was deflected off a wall created by Sevilla players before looping in the goal.
Two days later, Bale provided two more assists in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win at Rayo Vallecano. This brought his season’s total to four assists in three days. With three personal goals already against his name, the Spanish football press started singing a different tune. Bale’s worst critic has been Marca, the Madrid-based newspaper but after his last two games Marca started calling Bale as a promising Real Madrid find. A report on his game was to comment that the Ronaldo-Benzema-Bale trio worked a treat against Vallecas and Bale proved that he was a great partner for the Frenchman and the Portuguese. Another scribe wondered whether Bale was left-footed, right-footed or ambidextrous. The columnists talked about Bale’s moving down the right flank and using his right foot to assist in a successful Benzema header. It was a shock for them since Bale is supposed to be left-footed. The columnist further wrote that Bale is beginning to expose the myth that great left-footed players cannot kick with their right foot, because three out of Bale’s four assists in two games have come from his right foot.