On the face of it, Real Madrid and Gareth Bale looked to be a marriage made in heaven when the Welsh winger completed a then world-record move from White Hart Lane to the Bernabeu.
Four successive UEFA Champions League trophies, a La Liga title and a host of other domestic honours have followed for both Bale and Real Madrid in the six years since but there still exists a sense of disenchantment between both parties despite the staggering success.
The Welshman seemed like the natural heir to the throne vacated by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus last summer. But that has simply not happened with the winger being completely frozen out of the squad by Zinedine Zidane towards the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
That fractured relationship between the Real Madrid legend and Bale saw the latter nearly make his way to the Chinese Super League (CSL) over the summer before a last-minute U-turn by Florentino Perez.
Given the spate of injuries that has rocked the Spanish giants ever since, the Real Madrid president will be relieved to have blocked Bale’s impending transfer.
With Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio out injured, it was the Welsh wizard who came to Real’s rescue last week in the La Liga clash against Villareal with the left-footed winger popping in with a crucial brace to save Zidane’s blushes.
Zidane has a massive rebuilding job on his hands at Madrid but the Frenchman will be foolish to not utilise Bale’s prowess to the hilt, especially in the UEFA Champions League.
While Bale has had his highs and his lows over the years at the Bernabeu, most of his highs and brilliance has come to the fore in the continental competition. From his overhead kick against Liverpool in the 2017-18 final to his extra-time winner against arch-rivals Atletico Madrid to confirm the La Decima in 2014, the Champions League has carried a special place in Bale’s heart.
His numbers in the competition are as prolific as they get with 20 goals and 18 assists in 61 appearances over the course of his career. What makes him a lethal threat in Europe is his knack of delivering the goods at the most crucial of stages and he will be desperate to shut up his critics for good with more of the same in the coming season.
The Champions League has been the stomping ground for both Zidane and Bale over the years and the duo will hope to rekindle that affair despite their apparent differences.