After a successful first year, the emphasis was very much on further improvement from Gareth Bale for this season. However injuries hampered the early sections of the current term for him and despite displaying some positive form on recovery originally, has been generally fairly poor.
Yesterday night he cut a dejected figure as Real Madrid scraped through their Champions League last 16 tie vs Schalke, by the skin of their teeth. His performance was poor and pitiful, from start to the end. Mistakes came in abundance and his end product as well as confidence, appeared to be majorly lacking. Disdain from his own fans must be becoming an all too familiar experience for Bale now, whose campaign has gone down hill since he was accused of being a ball hog pre-winter break.
The before mentioned ‘ball hogging’ incident has no doubt affected him. His natural game is to put his head down and run. This is what transformed him into a phenomenon at Tottenham and the boos that followed after not releasing the ball on a couple of occasions when bearing down on goal for Los Blancos, has made him try to change his game for the worse. It is apparent every time he gets the ball that those boos are still ringing in his ears. Before he would have attacked his opposing man but now you can see he is looking to offload the ball short to a teammate, as way of proving his selflessness.
Bale now looks afraid to go it alone and that is extremely worrying. The ridiculous hierarchy system at Real Madrid is ruining all that is good about him, criticising a large part of what is so admirable about his game. He went it alone in the dying minutes of the Copa Del Rey final v Barcelona & I didn’t see the fans complaining then…
In fact, the Welsh star had been struggling to find his best form all season but recently his performances have dipped to concerning levels of mediocrity. The pressure from the club’s demanding fan base is only increasing by the week and this is genuinely a crisis for Bale at the Bernabeu. We will now see what he is made of as he has a straight choice – stay and fight through this testing time or part ways with the reigning European champions.
So many great players will tell tales of times in their careers in which they have faced doubts and then turned it around. Bale will hope to be such a case but these are really testing times of his character. His price tag will ensure that he receives more of an opportunity to find his feet than most but if the lacklustre displays continue, serious questions will be asked on whether staying at Madrid is the best option for both parties.
Perhaps being taken out of the limelight by Ancelotti and dropped for a couple of games, wouldn’t be the worst thing for Bale. He does have age on his side, so there is be no panic. Once he starts rebuilding his confidence, he will be a top player again and can continue his climb to the top of the game, but many will wonder how long that may take. Although Madrid knew they were taking on a player that was yet to be turned into one of the world’s elite and the path to super stardom is most definitely an extremely challenging one. They need to remain patient with their hefty investment.
Personally I think that Bale is too good a player to not recover from recent set backs and feel he is still destined to become a great player. All top players face adversity during their careers in some shape or form at points and the true test is how you come back from it. At least for now, Bale will stay on for at least another season you would suspect. This means he will be given more than enough time to turn his fortunes round, but the pressure at Madrid is more intense than anywhere in the world. He simply needs to stand up to it and gradually rise above it. Things seem tough now but with a few alterations to his all-round game and mind set, they will get better.