The notably Real Madrid-centric Spanish paper Marca expectedly yet comically tore into Gareth Bale after Los Blancos fell 2-1 to Barcelona in El Clasico yesterday.
Along with slamming his transfer fee, they yet again refused to even acknowledge his presence with a player rating, giving him just a slash instead of the typical 1, 2, or 3 they reserve for the others. [Side note: They also gave Lionel Messi 1/3 and Jordi Alba – who was the one to put Bale in his pocket – 1/3, so there will be no more discussion about the player ratings].
The paper also made sure to point out that in addition to at the Nou Camp last night, Bale had gone missing at other notable venues such as the San Mames (Atletic Bilbao), Vicente Calderon (Atletico Madrid), Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium (Sevilla), and Mestalla (Valencia).
Given Marca’s recent vendetta against Bale, coupled with their sensationalist nature, this was entirely predictable:
(That should probably read “they bought a bike for the price of a car” but point taken)
First let’s acknowledge one thing before we proceed: Bale was bad last night. Aside from having a quality goal ruled out for Cristiano Ronaldo straying a fraction offside, the Welsh winger was nowhere to be found. His pass completion was a woeful 57% (16/28), he failed in all four of his attempted take-ons, he was 1/4 in the air, and he didn’t put a single shot on target. His dashboard makes painful viewing.
But there’s another side to this story. It’s fair to say that, while yes Bale is struggling, his dead weight is low on the list of Real Madrid’s current problems. Iker Casillas, while he made big saves once Madrid was trailing, was poor prior to Suarez’s goal and his positioning continues to be a serious detriment to the club’s chances of winning big games. Sergio Ramos struggled to deal with the few times Messi got forward and was embarrassingly behind on Mathieu’s opening goal. And as others have pointed out, sometimes a goal (Suarez’s) is so darn good, it’s essentially undefendable. Tip your cap.
Barcelona also played Bale incredibly well. While their defense and midfield sat back absorbing pressure for much of the first half, they remained compact throughout. Most of Barcelona’s attack was built through the middle, leaving their full-backs to sit back and defend. Bale thrives on exploiting space vertically, and when there is none, he has no room to operate. The home strategy came at a cost; it left Ronaldo and Karim Benzema to pour on the pressure. But they were unable to capitalize more than once, and ultimately the strategy paid off. Tip your cap.
There are plenty of other problems for Carlo Ancelotti to sort out, and while Bale is one of them, he’s by no means the most pressing. So Spain, let’s ease off the winger and concentrate on what is truly ailing Real Madrid, shall we?