Were it not for injuries, we might just be celebrating the best of Gareth Bale’s three seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu. When he has played he has performed for the most part to the very highest level and has at least matched Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of his influence on the side.
Statistically speaking the pair are very close with the Welshman just edging it. In La Liga Bale has averaged a goal every 89 minutes compared to Ronaldo’s strike rate of one goal every 96 minutes. Both men have 9 assists despite the fact that the Portuguese has been on the pitch for double the amount of time Bale has.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been exceptionally good in the Champions League though with 13 goals in 8 appearances whereas Bale has only managed three games in the competition due to his troublesome calf injury which has seen him miss much of the campaign.
Zinedine Zidane described his side’s 4-0 win over Sevilla last weekend as the best of his reign and with Bale, Benzema and Cristiano all starting and all scoring, there was a timely reminder of what a good side Real Madrid can be on their day.
Certainly the prolonged absence of Bale can help explain why they are not closer to Barcelona.
His ability to come back from injury and almost immediately hit the ground running has been particularly impressive too as most players need several games to get back to their optimum level but 11 goals in a 9 game period either side of his injury lay-off demonstrates the raw natural talent that convinced Real to pay so much money for him in the first place.
The Welshman has not been without his critics though during his time in Madrid. Perhaps his biggest problem is that inevitably he will be compared to the likes of Neymar and Luis Suarez, who provide destructive support for Barca’s star-man on a consistent basis.
Only two of Bale’s goals this season have been away from home and most have come in convincing home wins so he has yet to produce a moment of magic at a really key time in a big game, something which he did manage in his first campaign at the club most notably scoring the decisive goal in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.
Emerging from CR7’s shadow
Cristiano Ronaldo is still the main man but if Bale can stay fit for the remainder of the season he may continue to gradually emerge from his shadow and with Ronaldo now the wrong side of 30, Bale’s influence is only going to grow.
The fact that we are now able to make favourable comparisons between him and the Portuguese winger can only be a good sign for the Welshman.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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