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Gareth Bale Continues To Struggle At Real Madrid

Christopher Coppock |
October 22, 2013 | 11:52 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Bale playing for Tottenham in 2011 before moving to Real Madrid. (James Boyes/Wikimedia Commons
Bale playing for Tottenham in 2011 before moving to Real Madrid. (James Boyes/Wikimedia Commons
Any time a team signs a player for a large transfer fee, the player will undoubtedly feel a lot of pressure to perform immediately. 

Thus, when we consider the fact that not only was Gareth Bale signed this summer for a world-record transfer fee of nearly 140 million U.S. dollars but that he was also signed as Florentino Perez's latest Galáctico signing, the man who the Real Madrid faithful believed would carry Los Blancos all the way to La Decima, we can begin to understand the crushing pressure the young Welshman must be experiencing right now. 

Following a less than stellar debut for Madrid in which he has only scored a single goal and made just three appearances all season due to injury, it would be hard to blame Bale for wishing he could disappear for awhile. 

There is no such thing as disappearing, however, when you are history's biggest signing playing for history's most successful team. 

Recently, there have been conflicting reports out of both Madrid and Marca, the capital city's pro Real Madrid sports news daily, as to what exactly is wrong with Bale and how long he will be out for. The media immediately gobbled this discrepancy up, wondering whether Bale's injury might be much more extensive than the team is letting on. 

Bale, however, is not the only person feeling pressure to see him perform, as Perez has come under fire for being so entranced with Bale and his next Galáctico that he ignored a rather checkered injury history that should have raised some red flags. 

The criticism of Perez and Bale has become so severe recently that Cristiano Ronaldo has come out and asked that the Welshman be left alone.

"Gareth has been doing well since he arrived. He didn't put in a preseason so that made things a bit more difficult for him," Ronaldo said, "We can't pressurize him, we must allow him to develop here. He always wants to learn, he's a fantastic guy."

Ronaldo continued by saying, "I don't think talking about his price tag helps him and we must leave him alone in that aspect. He will do great things for the team."

READ MORE: Despite Current Form, Gareth Bale Must Resist Temptation To Move Abroad This Summer

After the January transfer window last year, as Bale continued to be the best player in the Premier League, interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona and a host of Europe's other top teams began to trickle down through the media and sports rumor pages. 

At that time, I wrote a piece in which I argued that Bale should avoid the temptations of moving abroad to a team like Madrid, allowing himself at least one more year to develop before making the jump from being the big fish in a relatively small pond to being a small fish, but a small fish that people have sky high expectations of, in an enormous pond. 

Of course, there were inherent risks in that strategy, namely that Bale would never again have a season like he did in 2012, and thus had he stayed one more season the the EPL, the huge clubs would not come knocking in future transfer windows and he would miss out on the chance of a lifetime to play for one of history's greatest teams. 

Ultimately, Bale made the decision that a majority of people in his position would, as he joined Madrid in the last days of the transfer window. 

While he is currently hamstrung with injuries, crushing pressure to perform and the difficulties of adapting to a different culture and language, these excuses can only be used for so long. 

Not all blame can fall at Bale's feet, however, as it is also up to Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti to fit Bale into Madrid's system. 

One only needs to look to Cesc Fabregas as an example of how a fantastic player can be made to look mediocre when played out of position. Last year Fabregas struggled being played as a winger and a false nine behind Messi, and many people wondered he could play alongside Iniesta, Xavi and the rest.

This year, however, Cesc has been a breath of fresh air out of the midfield, adding an element of unpredictability and anarchy to an otherwise predictable Barca passing game.

Thus while much of the onus in on Bale to perform, he cannot be expected to be at his most exceptional if he is played out of position by Ancelotti. 

It is possible of course that Bale simply will not be able to stand the pressure of being asked to perform at a world class level every week. This would not be the first time a player has been broken by the bright lights of playing for Madrid, but it would be one of the most frustrating. 

Bale was, after Messi and Ronaldo, the most exciting player in the world to watch last year. His mind-blowing pace and creativity was always a pleasure to watch. 

It would be shame if Bale is unable to recover this form at Madrid, for not only would he be mired on the bench at the Santiago Bernabeu during his potentially most prolific years, but all of us, viewers the world over, would miss out on watching one of Europe's greatest young players work his magic under the brightest of lights.

Reach Staff Writer Christopher Coppock by email.



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