By Shikharr Chandra
Back in 2009, Gareth Bale was a target for Alex McLeish's Birmingham City. The Welshman was a subject to a €5m bid by the club from the West Midlands after having a disastrous spell with Tottenham, that had seen him make only one start after the first three months into the season.
Bale was struggling for game time due to injuries was behind the Benoit Assou-Ekotto in the pecking list. It was only after the Cameroonian got injured that the he got a chance to make a mark in the Premier League.
Imagine how different things could have been had Bale moved to a club plying its trade in the Championship. Harry Redknapp who was the manager of Spurs back then, came out and said he was open to selling Bale but it was up to the player to decide. In the end, Bale chose to establish himself at Tottenham instead of making a move.
While chances were hard to come by, Bale made full use of the time he got on field. So, when Assou-Ekotto returned, Redknapp chose to field Bale in a more advanced position, where he could showcase his attacking talent. This was indeed the turning point in the career of the man who would soon go on to become the most expensive player in world football.
With his speed and skills, he tormented defenders at will. His performance in the Champions League against the two Milan sides was arguably the defining moment in his career. He almost single-handedly guided the London club at times and was rewarded with the PFA Player of the Year award in 2011.
Bale would then go onto become the fulcrum of the Spurs attack. His versatility upfront gave Redknapp several options. His 15 goals in the 2011-12 campaign was the highest by a Tottenham player that season, but was enough to guide the London side to a Champions League spot.
Bale's form saw him gain interest from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United but he put all the questions on his future to an end by extending his stay until 2016. He continued his fine form and under manager Andre Villas-Boas and Spurs continued their push for the top four places. While the winger maintained his form consistently, lack of support from his team-mates on a regular basis saw, Spurs miss out on another season in the top four.
|Bale has lived upto the hype at Madrid this season|
His strike against Sunderland in the final game of the season was a memorable one, but not the one that could get them ahead of Arsenal for fourth position.
Bale’s brilliance demanded better challenges than having to fight for the Champions League spots. When Real Madrid came calling, he had a chance to reach the heights he dreamt for long.
This Saturday when much of the limelight will be on Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale too has an opportunity to claim his own legacy with a performance fitting enough to win the much wanted ‘La Decima’ for the Madridistas.
When the Welshman moved to the Spanish capital, the pressure was on him to live up to the hype, and the transfer fee that came with it. A lack of a proper pre-season and an injury hampered his start at Madrid and Neymar’s good run of form for Barcelona saw comparisons of the two and understandably so, Bale was the poor one.
However he didn’t let the criticism affect his game and eventually went on to form a formidable partnership alongside Karim Benzema and Ronaldo. He has scored 20 goals this season along with 16 assists in 31 games and has only been second to Ronaldo in the list of performers for Madrid this season.
His amazing burst of place which saw him overtake Marc Bartra and score the winner in the Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona was a testament of how far the winger has come in his career.
What is strikingly different for Bale at Madrid is that his team isn’t solely dependent on his shoulders. The likes of Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria have all performed consistently throughout the season, which has given Bale more freedom to express himself and play with less pressure.
“These are the reasons why you come to Real Madrid, to play in the biggest finals in the world and try to win trophy. “There’s pressure in the Champions League final for any player in any team. We’re all looking forward to it and the chance to win it. Hopefully, we’ll put a great performance in and lift the trophy.”- Bale.
Much has been made of the club's obsession to win the Champions League for the 10th time and for the first time since Zinedine Zidane scored the famous goal against Bayer Leverkusen back in 2002.
Saturday marks the occasion where Madrid could finally end their Champions League curse and it could well be the day Bale writes his name into Los Blancos’ folklore forever.