Bale has suffered a stop-start beginning to his Madrid career, scoring on his league debut before stepping off the bench in Real’s 1-0 derby defeat to Atletico Madrid.
Currently, he is sidelined by a muscle problem in his thigh, which is expected to trouble him for another couple of weeks—per Eurosport—but Coleman predicts further fitness issues are on the horizon, per Riath Al-Samarrai of the Daily Mail:
Physically he is not there, he is not ready and he might not be for some time. If you don’t do a preseason, no matter how good you are, you always play catch up for the season.
This season might be a tough one for him, as good as he is. He has had the weight and stress of “will the move happen, won’t it?” I think he has gone into it when he is not at his best, physically or mentally. It has had an effect.
I hope I am wrong but I don’t think it will be the last one (injury) he gets this season because of the stress of everything. Physically he is not there yet. You can’t miss a preseason.
Madrid’s official line on the Bale injury is that he is suffering from a “muscle contracture." Such an issue can clear up quickly but needs to be given the correct time to recover—particularly in the case of an explosive talent like the Welshman.
Bale’s early struggles highlight the danger of spending £86 million on one player. If injury persists, Madrid face the prospect of seeing nearly €100 million of talent sat in their treatment room all year.
A player of Bale’s style brings additional concerns. The former Tottenham man bases his game on speed, power and the ability to explode—both in the act of accelerating and shooting.
Injury problems are notorious for altering the direction of such a player’s career. Michael Owen—blessed with searing pace as a teenager—never truly recovered from the ankle and hamstring troubles that hindered his 2003-04 campaign. He left Liverpool for Madrid the following season and scored 13 league goals, but he never looked the same player.
Owen lasted one year in Spain before returning to England, where doctors were kept busy at Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke before his eventual retirement.
Prior to the 2003-04 season, Owen scored close to 150 goals in six full seasons for Liverpool. However, his post-injury form returned 64 goals in nine years, per ESPNFC.
Fernando Torres has suffered a similar fate, following his operation on a knee in April 2010. Having hit over 15 per season during his early career at Anfield, the Spaniard returned to score nine goals the season after undergoing surgery.
He later switched to Chelsea, where his form has rarely picked up, scoring 37 times in 139 appearances.
It is far too early to write Bale off. The 24-year-old is being treated carefully by Madrid after they initially rushed him into action.
But expectation will dictate that he is introduced back to the first XI as soon as he is declared fit, which is not the ideal scenario for a player who didn’t complete a preseason.
If Bale is to prove a success at Madrid, it is likely he will not find his best form until next term, although Ancelotti’s current struggles will apply pressure to the Welshman to sparkle much sooner.
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