Gareth Bale is world class, but only on the left-wing
Maicon jumps up on his bed all of a sudden; his body is completely drenched with his own sweat while his heart palpitates convulsively. He looks around and realizes that it was only a nightmare that he witnessed a few moments ago.
He tries to calm himself and go to sleep, but somnolence has seemingly left him for the time being as his mind ponders as to how everything changed so quickly – how a dream turned into a nightmare in just a moment.
As he recalls the bygone days, a lazy smile appears on his face as he reminisces the time he terrorised defences with his blazing presence on the right. You see, Maicon was never really known for his defensive abilities, but it was the pressure that he created while going forward that made him the best right-back in the world at one point.
His directness on the right flank made him a nightmare for the opponents – their pain was his glory as he fondly remembers those days without a hint of hesitation. However, then came the Welsh storm – things were never the same after that – and his smile instantly fades to nihil.
The making of Bale
Of course, the above passages about Maicon waking up in the night out of terror were only fictional as I have never shared a room with him. But if I were to imagine a night in the life of Maicon, this is the series of events that would play in my head.
Before that night at the San Siro, Maicon was the best right-back in the world. After that night, however, he was just another Tom, Dick or Harry plying his trade by running up and down on the right side of a football pitch.
That night at San Siro was a landmark – the kind where you can put a before and after mark on. Before that, Gareth Bale was just a left-back turned winger who could run at searing pace. After that night, he was a star.
When Inter came to the White Hart Lane, the fans were hyping up another battle between Maicon and Bale. Most expected that the Brazilian would have his revenge, but the Welshman once again desecrated Maicon’s sanctity, something from which he could never truly recover.
Maicon’s influence as a right-back started to fade from that point on. It’s not that he lost his skill or ability, but the psychological damage that Bale’s performances inflicted just left a permanent mark on him. It was a damage that resulted in a terminal problem for the former Roma defender – and he couldn’t come out of it.
Gareth Bale, on the other hand, though, rose to stardom in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, he was a beast that couldn’t be contained by the Premier League defenders. His presence on the left side of the pitch was menacing as he won the Premier League Player of the Year in 2013.
No longer was he just a talent who could beat his marker with pace; he was now a phenomenon that could score goals – a lot of them – from the left-wing.
Meanwhile, Florentino Perez needed to make a statement. He had lost out on Neymar to Barcelona and had to redeem his ego, so he went out and splashed a record-breaking amount of money on Gareth Bale.
For Perez, it was an answer to Barcelona and when Real Madrid won the Champions League and Copa Del Rey – where he scored the tie-breaking goal in both the games – he had won.
At that time, yes, he might have won – but in the long run, it was Neymar who turned the heads rather than the Welsh icon. By the time Neymar left the Catalan outfit, it was the Brazilian that was the more established star and looks more likely to break the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi duopoly.
And, more painfully, Neymar seems like the more appropriate heir to the Portuguese than Gareth Bale.
So, what went wrong here? How did Gareth Bale turn into an average commoner despite being touted as one of the brightest kids in the class?
Okay, let’s not get so far ahead.
For starters, Bale wasn’t actually half-bad when he played on the right of the BBC trident. His pace and directness made it very difficult for defenders to contain him, which is why Anaitz Arbilla was left in tears after getting pasted by the former Spurs man.
However, as a long-term replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo, does it make much sense to play him on the right when the former actually plays on the left? After the opponents figured out that closing down the Welshman restricts his ability and confines his influence in a game like arthritis restrains the movement of old people, he hasn’t been able to replicate – let alone better – his first season performances at the Bernabeu.
But there’s hope – at least he has shown so
Whenever the Wales star has played on the left – in the position of Cristiano Ronaldo – he has shined. It seems as though he might as well be the true heir to the Portugal captain if played in the position occupied by the latter.
Now, why would anyone want to move the best player of the team to accommodate the most expensive player of the team? Simply because Cristiano Ronaldo, position-wise, is no longer the player that he once was.
The Portuguese now operates more centrally and has scored a lot of his goals while being stationed in the centre. This is why there is space for Gareth Bale to play on the left while also not hampering the goal-scoring abilities of the number 7.
In his last game against Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park, the number 11 played some fined football and showed glimpses of his genius that made him a superstar at Tottenham Hotspur. With a goal and an assist before being subbed off in the 85th minute due to an injury, he wreaked havoc against the Germans.
And his position? A left-sided forward.
The speedster zoomed in from the left and attacked the central areas to cause trouble in Dortmund’s defence. It was a shame that he got injured at a time he was just about to return to his best – claiming by the signs he showed in that game – and it will be another uphill task for him after he returns.
But one thing is certain: Gareth Bale is still world-class and if Real Madrid want to see that version of the Welshman, they have to play him on the left with Cristiano Ronaldo up top.