That was the confirmation every Real Madrid fan-and neutral-who desperately wanted to see the world’s second most expensive player back on the pitch wanted. After the report by Spanish paper, Marca, last week that the Welshman had a slipped disc, it was a relief to hear Real President Florentino Perez give that assuring statement. Through the week, the speedy former Spurs man has gone on to participate in training without any fuss, problems or complications and what was a makeshift preseason seemed to have shaped him back into the explosive tormentor we saw last season. So that’s it! Gareth Bale, contrary to fears isn’t ‘injured’ and will be back for Real Madrid in games against Malaga and Barcelona!
It very safe to say a player of that quality and with that heavy price-tag will stroll into the first team once he’s rearing to go…..And that’s where the ‘problem’ lies. Where does he fit in? Where is best position? Does Carlo Ancelotti change so much just to ‘accommodate’ Bale?
Bale started the 2010-2011 season under Harry Redknapp as an attacking full-back, later morphing into a left-sided midfielder especially in the UEFA Champions League where he showed what an attacking threat he could be when given freedom, especially close to the opposition goal.
Harry Redknapp took the bold step and converted Bale into a classic midfielder the next season. With his pace trickery and venomous strike, he became more of a goal threat, scoring 10 league goals in his 36 matches-a personal record for the former Southampton man at the time. Finally he’d shown he was no defender, and was a far better attacker; or better put, a midfielder.
Last season, the 2012-2013 season, was when Bale decided to take it to a different level. The departure of Harry Redknapp from Tottenham was seen by some as a bad sign for him, but new manager Andre Villas Boas had the Bale manual. He knew exactly how Bale wanted and loves to play-with freedom. As the diagram below shows, Bale had more freedom compared to the two previous seasons. Something though has remained constant: Gareth Bale’s desire and adeptness coming in through the left side. Therein lies the problem at Real Madrid.
It’s simple! The left side of Real Madrid’s midfield is where Ronaldo has written his legendary story at Real Madrid. The former Sporting winger has made the position his, and it would be almost like short-changing one’s self to play him elsewhere-where he isn’t too comfortable. Despite arriving for such a heavy price, it’s hard to see how Carlo Ancelotti will sacrifice Ronaldo’s ‘happiness’. There are options though……
Assuming Real Madrid actually play a 4-4-2 (Carlo Ancelotti claimed so a few weeks back) as we’ve seen them do a few times this season, then new signing Isco, who’s played on Bale’s preferred left side may be the man to suffer.
The Welshman could play as a second striker in the hole behind the striker, but that would also mean depriving the team of Isco who prefers the same position, and has excelled there so far this season.
But it’s not all gloom. Afterall he wasn’t bought for a whooping whatever million Euros to sit on the bench. Apparently, the right midfield role was the vacuum he was supposed to ‘seamlessly’ fit into. It seems though, based on the above heat-map images that he may now be so much of a success there.
Striker? Former Real Madrid and Wales national team manager has suggesting he should be played further closer to goal, claiming that “He could play in the No.9 position…….He is an extraordinary player and I am confident that he will succeed.” But will Real take such a tactical risk/gamble this early into the season when they already trail the league leaders by a massive 5 points?
Missing preseason and early season injuries is turning out to be a big problem for Bale, Real Madrid and manager Carlo Ancelotti, and unless the Italian manager can somehow conjure some tactical magic and make it work, Gareth Bale may just have a first season to forget. It’s not written in stone though. After all this is a player that started as a left-back, and has gone on to adapt to many positions.
At the moment though, his supposed disc bulge is the least of Real Madrid’s problem. As former Real defender Fernando Hierro revealed this week that he played with the same injury until he was 37 years. What Real Madrid, the fans and Ancelotti should worry about is how to unleash the great player in Gareth Bale…how to make Bale play!