Will Gareth Bale's Role for Real Madrid Differ in Europe to La Liga?
It didn't actually reveal too much, but it was 60 minutes of competitive football following a summer of uncertainty—Gareth Bale will have felt good on Sunday morning.
After the Welshman's debut goal helped Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw at El Madrigal against Villarreal, the Spanish press began to herald his arrival.
"Porque lo Bale" was one Marca headline—a pun on "because he's worth it"—following the match, while most of the other newspapers, even the Catalan ones, seemed to agree that the Welshman's introduction to La Liga, all things considered, had been a good one.
Bale had arrived.
Proud to score on my debut and pleased to get 60 minutes tonight, just disappointed not to get the result. Looking forward to Tuesday now.— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) September 14, 2013
His role against the Yellow Submarine was primarily restricted to a berth on the wide right, but, while this is expected to slightly vary in time, will his role in La Liga and the Champions League differ at all?
Positionally it's hard to see him, as far as labels go, being moved too far from the right—he will begin to find more freedom, though. Isco is most creative centrally, while Cristiano Ronaldo has made scoring goals from the left look far too easy.
Of course, there will be room for all three to interchange, with the possibility of Carlo Ancelotti playing without a genuine front man at some point too.
By the end of his Tottenham career, Bale was enjoying success as a central player, given the license to maraud around and be the central hub of the team. It will take time to grow into that role in the Spanish capital, given the personalities around him, but his price tag dictates it should not take too long.
And with the club well known to be particularly keen for European success—a Champions League win would yield their 10th European Cup: "La Decima"—it is on that stage that Bale will be expected to prove the difference.
The competition has grown in importance over the past decade—so much so that despite winning La Liga, Barcelona's season last time out was tainted by their dismal showing in their semifinal defeat to Bayern Munich.
It is at that stage that Madrid have fallen in each of the last three seasons too, and Bale will be expected to provide the spark in those particular moments more than he will be expected to steamroll the likes of Osasuna and Elche.
That means that while it's unlikely Bale's role will greatly differ from game to game—consistency will be key in Carlo Ancelotti's bid for success—he's more likely to be judged on his showings on the continent.
Same role, more importance, more goals.
Ronaldo has scored 50 goals in the Champions League—including 12 strikes in 12 matches last season—while Lionel Messi has bagged 59 times in 79 appearances in Europe's premier competition. These are the sort of stats Bale is going to have to follow.
His four goals in nine appearances for Tottenham in the same competition—remember that hat-trick against Inter Milan?—provide him with a good platform to launch from on Tuesday night against Galatasaray when, once again, the world will be watching "The Prince of Wales," as he's been labeled by Marca.
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