Gareth Bale put in a performance to be proud of on Saturday, as he fired unbeaten Wales to the verge of Euro 2016 qualification with a comfortable 3-0 win over Israel. The Real Madrid star defied his critics with two goals, and completed his evening with a defiant statement.
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The 25-year-old was quoted by the Telegraph directly after the game, saying: “I don’t need to answer the critics. I know, and everyone around me knows, what I can do. There are ups and downs in football, you have to take it with a pinch of salt and all you can do is respond with your performances on the pitch, like that.
“I don’t feel I need to prove anyone wrong or right, I just need to play my football. I love playing for Wales, it’s a big honour and the most important thing is I focus on my football, I don’t listen to anyone else, what they’re saying, just enjoy my football with the boys.”
Bale has certainly endured a difficult time at Madrid, as he battles to live up to his £78m price tag (via FIFA.com) and the responsibility of being one of the world’s most expensive players. However, his statistics would suggest that he has done well in the Spanish capital, second only to Cristiano Ronaldo.
He scored 22 times in 44 games during his first season at the club. His tally included strikes in the Champions League final and the winner in the Copa del Rey final. This year he’s added another 16 goals in 39 games, including one in the Club World Cup final.
What more does he need to do? He’s not Ronaldo, but then very few players are. Madrid are their own worst enemies, with the insurmountable pressure they place on players such as Bale – booing him and attacking his car – unlikely to inspire the desired turnaround.
Bale’s place in the side means he can be unfairly judged. When attacking, he plays a forward role and is expected to directly contribute to goals and assists alongside Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. However, Real Madrid revert to a 4-4-2 when defending, and Bale is expected to drop back into midfield and help out defensively.
Those aren’t standards expected of Ronaldo or Benzema, and it could well aid Bale’s standing at the club if this was pointed out to the Real Madrid fanbase.
If the Welshman leaves Madrid this coming summer though, and by all accounts there’s a good chance he probably will in order to avoid the baying supporters, Premier League clubs should be queuing up to take him on, and give him the platform to prove the European champions wrong.
If Bale is forced out of La Liga – and it will be forced out, because he’s said on a number of occasions that he wants to stay – then he will be desperate to show what they’re missing out on. This will be one of the world’s best players motivated and ready to fire.
He’s shown both at Tottenham Hotspur and with Wales that when the team is built around him, he can flourish.
At Real Madrid, he’s accepted that he’s had to play second fiddle to Ronaldo. Anywhere else – other than of course Barcelona, where the strikeforce of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar means he would hardly be needed – and he’d be the star player.