After going through a period of extraordinary scoring form, the question has recently been raised as to whether Gareth Bale now ranks amongst the world’s elite players, a question I recently discussed in more detail.
Now, with the player seemingly being lined up as a summer acquisition by Real Madrid (via Guardian), the debate is turning toward whether or not the Tottenham talisman can flourish alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu.
At White Hart Lane, Gareth Bale is very much “the guy,” the force that Spurs turn to in their times of need, the most recent of which being Monday’s last-gasp winner against West Ham.
In this sense, the Welshman sticks out as a key component for the North London outfit, but is it so certain that he would be able to exert the same impact game in, game out amongst the supreme talent of Los Merengues?
Since moving to Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo has evolved past the extraordinary talent he was already displaying during his Manchester United tenure, something Sky Sports recently reported Sir Alex Ferguson as testifying to.
Just as Bale has become accustomed to doing at Tottenham, Ronaldo now occupies a role of freedom, switching between left and right flanks, calling no particular part of the pitch his “home” per se.
That being said, the Portuguese international most regularly begins proceedings lined up as the left prong of a three-dimensional attack, cutting in where he sees fit to open up the space for that quite unique right foot of his.
On the opposite wing, we’ve seen Angle Di Maria adopt a similar role on the right flank. The Argentine also prefers an inverted method of turning inside to get onto his favoured left foot and also adapt at switching wings when necessary to formation.
While a tally of six goals and 14 assists across all competitions is far from terrible, this hasn’t stopped Di Maria being linked with an exit from the La Liga club however, the Mirror reporting that the winger is supposedly being offered to some of Europe’s giants.
Such rumours would only seem to support the idea of Bale coming to the current Spanish champions, slotting into the space that would supposedly be left vacant by a Di Maria departure.
As he has demonstrated this season, Bale is growing as an attacker, having originally lined up as a left-back in his youth and still has plenty of time to grow at just 23 years of age.
This term, the Welshman has proven his versatility and coped well with the pressure of Andre Villas-Boas’ leading man, playing from the right wing, more central positions and even striker at times.
In that essence, Bale is far closer a player to Ronaldo than Di Maria could ever be, and were it not for a lack of ambidexterity on the Spurs’ man’s part, he would truly be one of the world’s most unpredictable assets.
With Ronaldo functioning anywhere across the attacking line, Bale fulfilling a very similar job and Mesut Ozil providing his usually calming source of ammunition, Real Madrid would have at their disposal one of the most capable creative midfields in world football.
However, that’s presuming Bale can perform to the same standard in the Spanish capital as he has done in its English counterpart for the past few years.
In these instances, a lot can often depend on the resolve of the player and how they react to such a change, either sinking or swimming under the added pressure of the transfer.
The same goes for Bale’s international status. With Wales, Bale is the star, the light capable of producing those signature pieces of magic to lead his side through the gloom.
This evidently wouldn’t be the case with Real Madrid, and it would be up to the Welshman to grow in accordance with his new surroundings, increasing his standards in order to maintain his current trajectory.
At Tottenham, Bale already operates magnificently within a 4-2-3-1 formation, a tactic used more and more these days and one that Real Madrid have reverted to for large portions of their campaign.
Part of the reason for Bale’s success in such a strategy is his workrate and ability to help his defenders when needed, offering great cover for Jan Vertonghen, Benoit Assou-Ekotto or whoever else may be at left-back.
With Marcelo behind him, Bale wouldn’t just have a Brazilian asset helping him going forward but would also need to repay the favour coming back, an area Angel Di Maria could perhaps be said to be lacking in.
Another small factor in such a move but nonetheless a substantial one would be the amazement of a high-profile Briton playing abroad.
In recent years, it’s become increasingly uncommon for the Premier League’s British stars to move abroad while the trend of bringing in others from outside the UK has becoming all the more rudimentary.
If he were to move to one of Spain’s biggest clubs, Bale would have a globe-sized magnifying glass upon him, scrutinising every wrong decision, every unsuccessful cross.
One can rest assured that the Welshman would be aware of such expectations but plenty of times have we seen an Englishman move abroad—Ian Rush might spring to mind—only to fall short of the standard and come back home all too soon for some.
Upon his departure from the English top flight, Cristiano Ronaldo was the most exciting talent in the Premier League and the same might be said for Gareth Bale, the boy wonder capable of producing something out of nothing, in several months’ time.
Although he still has time for growth on his side, Bale would certainly seem ready for the biggest of challenges right now and the idea of the Welsh Wizard on one wing and Portugal’s Powerhouse on the other is frankly quite a scary one.