Is Gareth Bale capable enough to replace Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid's talisman?
Since his arrival at Real Madrid in the summer of 2013, Gareth Bale has played mostly as a deputy rather than a challenger to the departed icon Cristiano Ronaldo. But over the past couple of months, that appears to have changed.
The match-winning display in the Champions League final against Liverpool showed his world-class ability in being decisive in important matches. With Ronaldo gone, the path looks clear for Bale to become Real Madrid’s central figure. He has the qualities to fill the huge void left by Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus.
Bale struggled to hold on to his place in the starting XI under previous manager Zinedine Zidane last season due to injuries. But he delivered when called upon. So, replacing an icon will not be easy initially. And, after having his own doubts about his Real Madrid future, it seems Gareth Bale is going to be the central figure in the plans of Julen Lopetegui.
It has been almost a month since the story of Ronaldo’s departure broke in the media outlets, but there has been no move to splash the cash and replace him by Real Madrid board. Although the transfer window closes on August 31 for La Liga, there is a growing feeling that the 13-time Champions League winners may opt to go with what they already have. It is quite possible that Lopetegui views his tactics as a squad job and not as a responsibility shouldered by just one player.
Sticking with the existing squad is certainly good news for most of the younger players in the team, such as Lucas Vazquez, new arrival Vinicius Junior and the talented Marco Asensio. But can Real Madrid fans expect that any of these young players to start filling the net on a regular basis like Ronaldo did? This is where Gareth Bale’s experience will come in handy for Real Madrid.
After five years and four Champions League winners’ medals, Gareth Bale has all it takes to be the number one star for Real Madrid. He also has three FIFA Club World Cups, three UEFA Super Cups, a La Liga and a Copa del Rey winners’ medal to show. He has become the unquestionable success in Spain, becoming by some distance the most successful British football export of all time. The vast experience he has gathered throughout his time in Real Madrid defines his ability to become a Real Madrid legend in the future.
For Gareth Bale, a total of 88 goals in 189 matches for Real Madrid in five years are exemplary. Despite being injured for the most part of last season, Bale has made 39 appearances in all competitions for Real and weighed in with a more than respectable 21 goals. Moreover, he finished the campaign as a hero with a bicycle kick to propel Real Madrid to their third Champions League trophy in a row.
It is very unlikely that the Welshman will overtake Ronaldo in the future as a Real Madrid legend, but he has the pedigree and desire to become one of Real’s all-time great players. Ronaldo may always remain as the player of quantity with his intimidating shots and goals but it is Bale who provides the overall quality the team needs. A team player, Bale thrives when running with the ball at defenders but also tracks back to help his teammates.
If Real Madrid fill the scoring gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo, it will be a phenomenal achievement. But Gareth Bale is more than capable of filling in the mighty shoes of a departed legend. Ronaldo’s departure will surely establish Bale as the spearhead of Real’s attack: not only in open play and as a target for dead-ball deliveries, but also when it comes to free-kick and penalty-taking duties. And there is no doubt that he will deliver for them.