This summer’s departure of Cristiano Ronaldo means there are massive shoes to be filled for whoever’s next to lead Real Madrid’s attack.
However, for one player, this season might be the perfect opportunity to become the star he knows he can – even though he was linked to Manchester United only a few months back.
Since his £85m arrival from Spurs, Gareth Bale has been in the shadow of Cristiano. Granted, this would be the case with most players. CR7 is an entity that transcends the world of football, so how could a lad from Cardiff become a star in the same squad as him?
Bale seemed the perfect player to complete Madrid’s attack. On his day, the 29-year-old has shown that his ability on the right-hand side is hard to match.
However, a career hindered by persistent injury struggles means that Bale has not made those highs consistent enough to close the gap between him and Cristiano.
Last season, Bale showed glimpses that he can be the star Real Madrid need in Ronaldo’s absence. New boss Julen Lopetegui seems to be a massive fan of the Welshman, so maybe he’ll finally give him the game time he didn’t see enough of last season.
Here’s how Gareth Bale can be the man to lead Real Madrid’s attack:
Gareth Bale’s Season So Far
Gareth Bale has got off to a flying start this season in La Liga, scoring three goals and assisting one in Real Madrid’s matches so far.
Most recently, last night’s UEFA Nations League match between Wales and Ireland saw Bale add to his tally with a sublime shot from outside the box.
In La Liga, Bale has averaged a pass success rate of 83.5%, with an average of 0.7 aerial duels won per game. He even was awarded man of the match during Madrid’s 4-1 win away to Girona.
Lopetegui has swapped between systems in his games at the helm of Los Blancos so far.
A front three of Benzema, Asensio, and Bale has been consistent throughout. However, the variation comes when Isco features in midfield. The two games without him starting have seen Madrid play a flat midfield three. Meanwhile, when the Spaniard is deployed in the starting XI, he plays just behind Benzema in a more advanced role.
Coincidentally, Bale’s man-of-the-match performance came when Isco played alongside him in attack against Girona. It’s clear that Bale’s play benefited from having Isco as extra support in attack, with the pair exchanging a total of 19 passes between each other.
While Bale might not necessarily come out on top in all of the disciplines, what’s important to note is the context of where he fits in the team along with the other players we are comparing.
Last season for Ronaldo cemented his future as a number nine. As expected, he comes out on top in the number of goals per 90 metrics (0.99). However, Bale follows in second, ahead of both Isco and Asensio with 0.68 goals per 90 metrics. Given that Bale played on the wing, that’s not a bad tally.
Unfortunately, Bale sits bottom in terms of assists per 90 metrics with 0.12, but redeems himself with goals inside the area. His 0.68 goals per 90 metrics in the box shows his desire to get into the box to score goals, while Asensio and Isco both act as playmakers.
Furthermore, Bale created significantly more chances than Ronaldo per 90 metrics, beating his tally of 1.69 with a healthy 2.28.
Finally, with Cristiano leaving, Madrid will be looking for a player who poses a similar physical threat in the final third. With Benzema serving more as a poacher as opposed to a target man, this allows Bale to step in.
At 6’’1, Bale considered a very tall winger, his physical presence also evident in the aerial duels he won last season. Per 90 metrics, Bale tallied 1.54 success aerial duels, beating even Cristiano’s tally of 1.28.
To conclude, if Bale continues the form he has shown already this season, Real Madrid needn’t worry about replacing their Portuguese icon.
Bale as an inverted winger alongside Isco and Asensio completes a well-rounded attack for Madrid. The Welshman adds a goalscoring threat which compliments the styles of Asensio and Isco, an area which needs addressing in Ronaldo’s absence.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Lopetegui can continue his side’s impressive form so far. If so, then there’s no reason why they can’t secure a fourth consecutive Champions League trophy after last year’s success against Liverpool.