Decoding Gareth Bale and his spectacular decline
It almost seems aeons ago that a speeding Gareth Bale rushed through the bylines past a hapless Marc Bartra to win the 2013-14 Copa Del Rey for Real Madrid. Yet as Gareth Bale struggles to make the squad at Tottenham these days, one can’t help but wonder if the 31-year-old’s best days are really behind him.
The Welsh wizard has come a long way from the lanky speedster at Spurs to an all-conquering Galactico at Real Madrid. He established himself as one of the best forwards on the planet during his time in Spain, helping Real Madrid to numerous trophies.
During his 7-year stay, he formed a deadly partnership with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
However, fitness and injury problems have always been a huge sticking point for Bale. He often had to face long spells on the sidelines, missing chunks of seasons. It went sideways in the last couple of seasons when he was overlooked despite being fit. His attitude did little to endear himself to the club faithful.
But is Gareth Bale’s time in the upper echelons of football truly over? We take a deeper look.
The breakout years at Tottenham
Under the tutelage of Harry Redknapp, Gareth Bale was asked to move up to the attack from a left back position and he was predominantly used as an attacker for the rest of his Spurs career. This was perhaps one of the most drastic and effective position changes in world football as Gareth Bale was fully showing his powers.
Stats from – Transfermarkt
It was clear that the change in position worked wonders as Bale’s output improved significantly over the next few seasons. His final season at White Hart Lane proved to be his best season at the club and that prompted Real Madrid to splash the cash on him.
The initial highs at Real followed by a gradual decline
Gareth Bale was widely considered as the successor of Cristiano Ronaldo when he joined the club initially. He was supposed to be the kick-starter of the next Galactico era at the Spanish capital.
Bale produced what was asked of him as he went on to play a vital part in Real’s La Decima and Copa Del Rey titles in 2014. Thereafter, Bale formed one of the best attacking trios alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema. The three of them terrorized defences all across Spain and Europe.
Yet as time went on, Bale’s struggled to keep up his form and fitness. He was constantly facing niggling injuries that kept him out for chunks of the season.
In the graph, we see a gradual decrease in Bale’s output, with more games missed due to injuries. Last season, it had gotten to the point where Bale wasn’t even considered to selection despite being fit. Bale’s attitude was seen as a huge sticking point. His ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid.’ flag celebration did not go down well with the Bernabeu faithful.
Gareth Bale’s time at the top might just be over
A move back to Tottenham seemed like the ideal move to get his career back on track. After all, this was the club that launched his career. However, pretty much everything has been the same.
Bale no longer displays the hunger to succeed at the highest level. His age is clearly not an issue because 31 is still a decent age for forwards to perform at the top level. Players older than him are performing substantially better. There can only be one explanation – Bale’s time at the top is nearing its end.
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It’s painful to see but nothing is working for Bale. He is no longer the speedster he once was. His finishing has pretty much abandoned him and despite playing alongside a star-studded lineup that has Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, he still can’t get his name on the scoresheet or on the team sheet for that matter.
Bale’s decline was evident at Madrid but it was expected that he would be able to turn it around at Tottenham. Sadly, that has not been the case.