Gareth Bale's arrival at Real Madrid continues to generate headlines this week, with curiosity rising about the dynamics of his relationship with fellow star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Across the El Clasico divide it is much the same story at Barcelona where the ability of Neymar and Lionel Messi to strike up a successful partnership is under the spotlight.
The situation could have been very different. According to comments made on Spanish television by Barcelona president Sandro Rosell earlier this week, reported by ESPNFC's Dermot Corrigan, Real Madrid pursued Brazilian starlet Neymar until the last possible moment.
That, in itself, is not surprising. Neymar is the epitome of a Real Madrid player—a true footballing superstar who would without question be of benefit to any side in the world. He is very much a Galactico, even if he’s not under Real Madrid’s control.
Madrid instead focused on capturing Bale. In the window’s final days, they got their man for a world record £85 million fee, per BBC Sport.
How can the Welshman ensure that Real Madrid do not regret missing out on Neymar?
1. A Perfect Foil for Cristiano Ronaldo
Much has been made of the relationship between Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo on and off the pitch. Some observers suggest that the Portuguese feels somehow jilted by Real's extravagant purchase of the former Spurs star.
Bale, though, has never been particularly confrontational and, for the moment, is saying all the right things to ensure that his colleague's ego is well and truly massaged—if, indeed, that was ever really an issue.
On the field, they should link up excellently. With both players' games built upon pace and power, they should be able to combine effectively on the counter attack to cause big problems for opposition defenders.
Bale is a totally different player than Mesut Ozil, who departed for Arsenal. But with Angel di Maria and Isco around to provide creativity, the Welshman can offer the direct approach he mastered at Spurs.
2. A Quieter Off-Pitch Persona
Neymar is not the arrogant, immature youngster that some would have you believe. With his Dad as an adviser, he tends to be very considered in his approach to his career. He does, though, court publicity in a manner that Bale does not.
Bale will not be a problem for Real Madrid in terms of his behaviour, professionalism or social activities. His personal life will not distract from what the team is doing on the pitch.
Neymar is never out of the media—whether to do with his celebrity girlfriend, his hairstyle, parties he attends or a television appearance.
Bale's public persona will doubtless increase at the Bernabeu, but compared with many players Los Merengues have become accustomed to, the Welshman will be an easy personality for the club to deal with.
3. A Free Summer Calendar
In the summer of 2014, Neymar will be unlikely to get a moment's peace—regardless of how Brazil does at the World Cup. Win or lose, he will be the centre of intense media speculation throughout the off-season.
For Bale, whose Wales side will not appear at the competition and are unlikely to make any tournament in the near future, such concerns will not be an issue. He will be rested and raring to go at the beginning of the 2014-15 season.
That is not a major concern, admittedly. However, in the long-term, Bale will benefit greatly from his opportunity to rest properly each year. That can only be a good thing for Real Madrid and their investment.
4. Versatility If Needed
At the moment, Real Madrid left-back Marcelo is absent with a hamstring injury and, while Fabio Coentrao is an excellent replacement, there is also the option of Bale covering the position if required.
In games against weaker opponents, it could be a useful option for Carlo Ancelotti to pack the side with attack-minded players knowing that his side will almost certainly seal victory.
Bale was briefly used as a false nine by Andre Villas-Boas early last season and can also play a number of midfield roles.
While Neymar is by no means confined to one role, the additional options Bale offers could prove useful.
5. A Ronaldo Replacement?
Real Madrid will not be looking to get rid of Cristiano Ronaldo anytime soon, but he is now 28 years old and there have been mutterings that he would like a move back to Manchester United were it available, per the Guardian.
Given his importance to the side as an attacking weapon, the club will be delighted to have secured a similar style of player in Bale as a form of insurance policy. There is no comparison in terms of current ability and efficiency with the ball, but there are similarities.
Bale's presence takes away one of the Portuguese's bargaining tools. He is not as irreplaceable as he was just a few months ago due to Bale's presence. Neymar could have taken the side in a new direction, but Bale would be a continuation of the same approach.
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