Bale Scores on Madrid Debut, but Ronaldo Looks a Shadow of His Usual Self

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2013

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Gareth Bale of Real Madrid celebrates scoring Real's opening goal during the La Liga match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at El Madrigal on September 14, 2013 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Gareth Bale's first half goal drew huge smiles from the world's most expensive player on his debut.

You were more likely to find a grimace on the face of Cristiano Ronaldo, the former holder of that title, as Real Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw by Villarreal at El Madrigal on Saturday night.

With the announcement that Carlo Ancelotti would throw Bale in from the start, it was confirmed that Madrid's starting 11 would become the most expensive ever at a cost of £324 million, via Sporting Intel.

If that was supposed to be intimidating, it wasn't reflected in the way Villarreal flew out the blocks. 

By the time the Yellow Submarines took the lead—Cani scored following great persistence from Jonathan Pereira—they'd already had four shots on target. Madrid had been under siege.

Once behind, all attention turned to the two most costly members of that Madrid line-up. Who could bring them back into the match?

The answer was Bale.

Dani Carvajal flew down the right flank, in a way Madridstas could only dream of witnessing from Alvaro Arbeloa, before squaring the ball to Bale who, showing both hunger and desire, got in front of his marker to slide the ball past Sergio Asenjo.

Jokes will flow about Ronaldo not being happy about sharing the spotlight, but it is intriguing to see the change in the Portuguese international's body language this season.

Once again shots rained from his boot on the opposition goal, eight in total, as he looked to improve on the eight goals and four assists he'd previously managed in six meetings with Villarreal.

Like in this season's first three fixtures, something didn't feel quite right, though.

The fact that he didn't score from Sergio Ramos' superb pass after 33 minutes wasn't particularly surprising, but the fact that he headed wide by such a distance was, though.

When his goal did come, it was far from spectacular. Bale had just been replaced, following a run which showed he was running on empty, when Ronaldo drew on plenty of luck to see his shot ricochet Madrid into the lead.

His celebration which followed was full of the usual arrogance we've grown to both love and hate, but there was an element about it which suggested he knows he's not at his best.

It's early days in the Ancelotti era, and it's only fair that Ronaldo, and other players, will take time to adjust to new systems, new ideas and new philosophies. If that's the case, then that's understandable—even by the 28-year-old's incredibly high standards.

What people will hope in Madrid is that it isn't any sort of petulance from Ronaldo. He infamously declared himself "sad" this time last year, via The Telegraph, while a cloud continues to hang over his contract situation.

Madrid's insistence on pandering to Ronaldo's ego supposedly was the reason behind them trying to suggest that Bale's transfer fee would not break the world record, too.

While Lionel Messi and Neymar are happy to talk about each other's brilliance, barring a staged photo at Madrid's training ground, Ronaldo has had little to say on Bale's arrival.

For the sake of entertainment, everyone should cross their fingers that it's merely a case of early season blues, because in the long run 2-2 draws with Villarreal won't do, and Ronaldo and Bale could prove electrifying.

All stats taken from Squawka