Can Gareth Bale Ever Win the Ballon d'Or at Real Madrid?

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2015

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side's fifth goal against Real Betis during their Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. Bale scored twice in Real Madrid's 5-0 victory. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Sometimes agents can say things that get their clients into trouble, but the latest words from Gareth Bale’s Mr. 10 Percent should have Real Madrid fans nodding their heads in agreement.

Jonathan Barnett, the man who helped broker world football’s biggest-ever deal—Real's payment of £85 million to take Bale from Tottenham Hotspur two years ago—told the Soccerex conference in Manchester, via the Guardian:

Real is the best club in the world and they bought him.

He wants to do well. He badly wants to see Real Madrid and himself achieve certain targets, which he has always wanted ever since we first got together.

One of those is to win the Ballon d’Or and he’s got the best chance in the world playing at Real Madrid. He wants to win everything and he’s very hungry to win everything.

He hasn’t won the Spanish League yet [either] and statistics prove that if you play for Real Madrid or Barcelona then you have a better chance of winning the Ballon d’Or.

The Ballon d’Or! That shiny symbol of world footballing greatness that has been exclusively shared between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo since 2008—the former winning it a record four times, and the latter three.

Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo hands a microhpone to Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi (L) as they stand on stage after being selected in the 2014 FIFA FIFPro World XI during the FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Kongre
FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

To even contemplate anyone else’s hands on the famous trophy is to commit football heresy, but there will come a time when neither of the two is holding it. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, both are mere mortals.

So why can’t Bale win it? His transformation from skinny Southampton left-back to global Real Madrid icon is now pretty much complete, and it’ll include a first appearance at a major international tournament when Wales finally rubber-stamp their place in Euro 2016 next month.

Barnett claims that the freedom his client feels whilst playing and inspiring his country is now coming across in his club form under new Madrid boss Rafael Benitez, saying:

If you look at it now, he is not playing wide right. He is playing more central. And I think that is going to suit him more. More like the freedom he has for Wales.

Rafa’s going to give him that. And as long as he scores the goals and the team does well, it is easier to accept. And he enjoys that [role] because he was getting a little frustrated.

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Central to the plans for club and country, this would appear to be the season which will make or break Bale’s spell in Madrid.

Plenty back home are waiting for him to fail—not least Manchester United, who seem to be linked with him every week—but after scoring two goals in his first appearance at the Santiago Bernabeu this season in the 5-0 win over Real Betis before the international break, there seems to be a sense in Madrid that Bale’s importance is growing.

NICOSIA, CYPRUS - SEPTEMBER 03:  Wales striker Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring the opening goal during  the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier between Cyprus and Wales at GPS Stadium on September 3, 2015 in Nicosia, Cyprus.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

To win the Ballon d’Or, however, he’s going to have to approach superhuman goalscoring heights. Because in the seasons immediately preceding his winning of the award, Messi scored 38, 47, 53 and a scarcely believable 73 goals, whilst Ronaldo managed 42, 55 and 51 before he picked it up.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates his hat-trick goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on December 26, 2012 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Mic
Michael Regan/Getty Images

To date, Bale’s best season for goals was the 2012/13 campaign—his last one for Tottenham, when his 26 strikes convinced Real that they needed to make their move. In reality, he’s going to have to get close to doubling that this season if he is to stand a realistic shot at winning the personal prize he covets most.

Can he do that? Well Benitez’s decision to station him centrally and the Betis game make for a good start, but he’s probably going to need his club’s devotion to Ronaldo to cede a little if he is to stand a good chance. Taking some free-kicks and penalties might help, too.

At 26 years old, he’s got time on his side in his quest. But of course he can’t control the feats of Messi—the favourite for the 2015 award and, in all likelihood, the man who’s probably already won it according to Barcelona teammate Neymar, via ESPN FC, and several others.

But why should Bale worry about that?

Personal awards come as a result of being one of the key performers in a successful team, and as Bale’s career approaches what he’ll hope will be its peak years, the Welshman is in a very good position both on the pitch and off it.

He’s found his feet in Madrid, found his calling internationally and found his agent talking a lot of sense.

Now come the actions to back up the words.