Why Gareth Bale's long injury lay off will derail Real Madrid's title ambitions
Competition for places, pressure to succeed and comparisons with one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game – Cristiano Ronaldo, are among the many evils that Gareth Bale faces at Real Madrid. But the Welshman has superseded expectations since moving to the Spanish capital in 2013 from Tottenham Hotspur.
The forward has transformed himself into ‘Mr. Irreplaceable’ at the club.
That makes his latest injury a huge concern for Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid. He has played all across Madrid attack since his move and will hugely be missed in the attacking third and his overall contribution to the team; the Welshman is a lethal weapon for the Los Blancos.
It was confirmed last Thursday that he will be out for almost four months after suffering an ankle injury. He is scheduled to be operated on in London and would definitely miss the El Classico, Real’s knockout stages in the Champions League and is also at risk of missing Wales’ 2018 World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on 24 March, with the game exactly four months away.
The former Spurs star man has proven to be integral for Zidane’s side as star man Cristiano Ronaldo’s form suffered at the start of the season. Into his fourth season, Bale is an established first teamer and recently signed a bumper new deal. The contract extension that will keep him at the Bernabeu until 2022 and make him one of the best-paid players at the European champions on a reported €400,000-a-week after tax, the signs were clear that the focus of the club was with the Welshman going forward.
There have been comparisons with Neymar, and although the Brazilian plays in a more complete team, Bale has ensured his arguments alongside the Barcelona forward will not be paled. He has often dragged the team to victories and has aroused a feeling at the Santiago Bernabeu that he is the next big thing.
No player in the current Madrid setup (except Ronaldo, of course) can boast of the all-round attributes that Bale possesses. His pace, directness and ability to pick out a pass, as well as his potency in front of goal, has made him such an important cog in the Madrid wheel.
His traumatic dislocation of the peroneal tendons in his right ankle is the biggest problem the Real physio room will contend with in the coming months. Zidane will be sure to keep up the pressure on his medical team to speed up his recovery. Such is his importance.
Why Bale is important to the team
Real Madrid sit atop the La Liga table with 30 points after 12 games, most of those points won by the timely intervention of Bale. The brace against Real Sociedad early in the season got Real off to a flyer in the 2016/17 campaign. He assisted Ronaldo’s goal in the early minutes of the 5-2 win over Osasuna, the goal that gave Real the momentum to go on to record the big win.
A second double in the Spanish top flight this season prior to the Madrid derby with Atletico, where he grabbed an assist on one of the three Ronaldo scored – against Leganes, helped Real correct their mistakes from the blip they had early on, picking up five draws in the league, and return to the top of the table.
Honestly, there is no point trying to mumble over the obvious situation Zidane is faced with. He is left with an attack that wouldn’t be as sharp as when Bale is in the ranks. The French manager will have to pick sides that will remain effective or better what the Welshman brings to games these days.
Bale has undeniably been Madrid’s most important and influential player this season and any absence will certainly affect the success of their current style of play. The pacey forward adds fluidity in the attack and helps stretch the opposition when defences were compact and proved difficult to break down.
He could be better than he is now. His 65 goals in 135 games for Madrid is a return of a goal every 0.45 games. By comparison, Ronaldo has scored 371 in 351 games – an incredible 1.04 goals per game. Bale has played more minutes than any of his partners in front line this season as the trio faces more competition for forward places, particularly from Alvaro Morata, who has returned from Juventus and scored seven goals in all competitions so far this season.
Bale has not won the league since his move to Spain and with him in the side, this season is most promising. His good form has helped Real go 17 matches unbeaten away from home and that impressive statistic will be under threat now.
Possible options for Zidane
In Bale’s absence, Alvaro Morata could step in to provide enough cover, having displayed a high level of spirit for the fight for places since his return to the club. He could help provide enough attacking options to partner Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
Marco Asensio is also another option for the French manager having impressed in the cameo appearances he’s been given in the few games he’s played in this season. The young forward again proved that he is much more than a squad player in a vibrant showing. Another world-class player and forgotten player under Zidane, James Rodriguez, could step up to the plate and show his manager that he deserves a place in the starting XI with Bale’s injury.
With Bale’s injury, Zidane knows the quality he has lost and would do well to return to the drawing board, mapping out different ways and tactics to keep Madrid’s good form going. Without the in-form Welshman, Madrid will need inspiration not just from the talismanic Ronaldo, but other leaders on the park.
More Football news, transfer rumours, analysis and features at Sportskeeda.com. Also if you are attending a football game anywhere in the world and/or have a news tip for us drop us an email at football (at) sportskeeda (dot) com