Gareth Bale has been booed for most of the season, by his own fans.
The most expensive player in the world has endured somewhat of a Sophomore slump at Real Madrid in 2014-15 and his display on Wednesday night in Real’s 1-1 draw with Juventus, which saw the reigning European champions crash out of the UEFA Champions League at the semifinal stage, said it all.
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Bale, 25, looks frustrated, is snatching at chances and at times it seemed like he didn’t want the ball to come to him. In all fairness, Bale kept on trucking and although he missed two glorious chances in the second half to grab a vital second goal for Real, at least he was making the right runs and getting into the box. In the second half on Wednesday the ball kept coming out to Bale on the right flank and each time he cut inside on his left, looked up and often drifted a ball into the six-yard box which Juve cleared easily. Bale threw his arms up in the air in disgust on plenty of occasions as his slump in form continues.
Real’s fans were growing frustrated with the Welshman and that’s been happening all season. Many are now questioning whether or not Bale should call it quits and move back to England with Manchester United and Chelsea rumored to be interested in him on a weekly basis.
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Real’s damaging defeat to Juve all but ends their chances of winning any silverware this season as they trail Barcelona by four points in the La Liga title race with two games to go. Bale was frank and honest about his own form this season and where he needs to improve when speaking to Sky Sports on Wednesday.
“There have been some ups and downs but personally I think I’ve played well,” Bale said. “I’ve maybe not scored as many important chances as I’d like but my general play has been good. My finishing is not as good and that’s something to work on for next year. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and I’ll learn from this season and take it on.”
When you are trying to live up to Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s tough. Bale has scored 39 goals in 91 appearances for Real, but the Madridista’s expect more from the man who cost $130 million in the summer of 2013. Bale has now gone seven games without a goal amid his return from a calf injury and earlier in 2015 he went nine games without scoring.
On those goalscoring expectations, let’s not forget that Bale was a left back when he first burst onto the scene as a teenager and was an out-and-out winger at Spurs for most of his time at White Hart Lane. He isn’t the best natural finisher around but is capable of whipping in superb deliveries, scaring the life out of full backs with his blistering pace and smashing in unstoppable shots from distance. At Real he is playing in a three-pronged attack with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema and he often finds himself in the box ready to apply the finish instead of creating the chances himself. That’s not his natural game.
So, the big question is: should he stick it out with Real or, after only two years in the Spanish capital, is it time to move on for Bale?
I think he should stay and show what he’s really made of. Granted, a move to United or Chelsea wouldn’t be a disaster but if Bale returned to the PL now he would consistently hear jibes like “oh, he couldn’t cut it in Spain” and similar generalizations could derail his progress as the heir to Ronaldo at Real would have to start a fresh somewhere else.
Despite the jeering from home fans, if he remains in Spain and overcomes this sticky patch and comes back stronger next season, everyone will admire his fight and determination to turn things around. Moving back to England would be the easy option and from his own comments above it seems like Bale isn’t ready to quit. If Bale throws in the towel this summer and demands a move back to the Premier League then it wouldn’t send out the right message. The going has got tough for Bale, Real’s manager Carlo Ancelotti and plenty of other players at the Santiago Bernabeu. Bale must remain to repay the faith shown in him by Real or risk looking back on his career and wondering “why might have been” during his prime years.