Assessing Gareth Bale's Nine-Year Real Madrid Career
Bale ends his love-hate relationship with Spanish giants Real Madrid this summer.
Some things in football are easier to assess than others, and as Gareth Bale ends his nine-year, love-hate relationship with Spanish giants Real Madrid this summer, everybody seems to have their own opinion on the Welshman’s time at the iconic Santiago Bernabéu in the heart of Madrid.
Indeed, his relationship with the passionate Madridistas, which was certainly not always the best, and his off-field antics — like holding a banner reading ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order’ during celebrations when his nation qualified for Euro 2020 — will perhaps leave a lasting mark on his stint at the European powerhouse and diminish his legacy as a true Galactico.
But, his performances on the pitch for Madrid should be more than enough to see him go down in the club’s rich history as one of their best ever players. After all, he won five European Cups during his trophy-laden time at the Bernabéu — scoring a crucial goal in injury time in the 2014 final as Real beat their city rivals Atlético Madrid 4-1 to seal La Décima.
Then, of course, there was the final against Liverpool at Olimplyskiy Stadium in Kyiv in 2018 which Bale played the star role in. There was very little to separate the two sides for those who bet on football with SkyBet. But when Karim Benzema’s surreal goal, gifted to be him by Loris Karius, was cancelled out by Sadio Mané, Bale stepped up to the mark.
In the 63rd minute, less than 10 minutes after Mané’s equalizer, the Welshman scored a stunning bicycle kick that has got to be up there with the best Champions League goals of all time — certainly in a final. And he wrapped up the tie and his man of the match performance by beating Karius from distance, the strike helped in by a fumble from the German keeper.
That performance in a Champions League final alone would be enough for a player to go down in folklore at any other club in Europe, let alone the fact Bale departs Madrid with five European Cups, three La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey — in which he scored that famous winning goal against Barcelona in the final — and 106 goals in 258 appearances.
However, there is a sense that Real Madrid’s fanbase did not truly appreciate everything Bale has done for the club for the best part of the last decade. Yes, his influence on the pitch for Los Blancos has dwindled massively in the last few years — after all, he made just seven appearances and managed just one goal last season — but his overall achievements should outweigh the fact he perhaps overstayed his welcome.
There is hope that now Bale is finally off the books of Madrid that all the issues between him and the fans will be forgiven and forgotten, and both parties will look back at what was truly a huge part of the club’s history with pride.
The supporters who so often jeered him gave Bale a standing ovation at the recent Champions League celebration at the Bernabéu after they beat Liverpool in Paris last month and the Welshman released a heartfelt statement on social media to announce his departure — both of which will have hopefully put any bad feelings to bed.
All-in-all, Bale should be remembered as a Real Madrid legend and if it took until he left the club for the fans to realize that, then so be it. The 32-year-old will certainly look back at his time in the Spanish capital with a positive outlook. After all, Bale got to live out every young boy’s dream — pulling on that famous white stripe of Los Blancos!