Is the criticism directed towards Gareth Bale valid?
Some say that there’s no bigger transfer in football than a move to Real Madrid. A club with such a rich history, and an even richer owner. Real have broken the transfer fee record five times, and when Gareth Bale joined the club in 2013, he became the most expensive footballer of all time.
There’s no doubt that having a price tag of £85.3 million comes with huge levels of pressure and expectation. Bale had a sensational debut season at the Bernabeu; scoring winners in both the Copa Del Rey and Champions League final earned him many plaudits.
But fast-forward to 2015 and the honeymoon period for Bale and Madrid is most certainly over. After being battered 4-0 away to city rivals Atletico, the Spanish papers slaughtered the performance of Bale and his team-mates.
For some this news may come as a surprise, after all a return of 25 goals in 46 league games is not to be sniffed at. But is this enough from the world’s most expensive player? Criticism of Bale hasn’t just erupted because of one poor performance against Atleti, it’s been brewing among Madrid fans for quite some time.
When compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, Bale has had the fewest touches (947), scored the lowest number of goals (10), and has the worst shooting accuracy (51.75%) during this La Liga season so far.
The main accusation Bale has been faced with is that he’s too selfish. He holds on to the ball for too long, and shoots when he has team-mates in better positions.
The best example of this was a home victory against Espanyol, when late on in the match Bale elected to shoot instead of sliding the ball through to Ronaldo who had an open goal. Bale missed and Ronaldo gyrated and moaned that he wasn’t given the ball.
In recent fixtures against Sevilla and Real Sociedad, Bale spewed shots wide when it seemed he had better options around him.
A small section of Madrid fans jeered Bale for these mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that the supporters have turned on him. Even last season when Iker Casillas made a few blunders in goal he was criticised by his own fans, despite being considered as a true club legend, so we can’t read too much into this.
The Welshman’s work rate has also been under scrutiny. At Tottenham and in his debut Real season, Bale worked extremely hard to track back and make tackles, but this year there has been a noticeable decline to this side of his game. Even if the results aren’t going Madrid’s way, fans will appreciate seeing some fight and effort being put in.
With Ronaldo suspended against Sevilla and Sociedad, Bale was presented with a big chance to get the monkey off his back and step out of the Portuguese star’s shadow. It was a golden opportunity that he failed to make the most of.
Moving from London to Madrid as the world’s most expensive signing was never going to be easy. It’s a cultural and lifestyle change, something that takes time to getting used to. But it’s not just Bale who’s under fire here, Real Madrid as a club need to improve on their recent performances, otherwise we could see the former Spurs’ man saying ‘adiós’ to life in Spain.