Harry Redknapp believes that Gareth Bale’s ability to strike up a firm relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo will be key to his success at Real Madrid.
The 24-year-old is working alongside the Portuguese at the Santiago Bernabeu after completing a €90m-€100m transfer in the summer from Tottenham.
For his former manager at White Hart Lane, the psychological test of playing alongside Ronaldo will prove most important to Bale’s success or failure.
“His biggest test will be to step out of the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo with confidence. That won’t be easy,” considered Redknapp in the latest chapter of his book to be serialised by The Daily Mail.
“Ronaldo is a huge star at Madrid and will probably want to take nine out of 10 free-kicks - at least. Gareth will have to assert himself and that will require a strong mind.
“He has to think ‘I’m an £86million player’ and act like it, taking responsibility, claiming the ball when he fancies his chances. And yet at the same time he cannot dwell on his fee and what it means too much because that would put him under immense pressure.
“It is a tricky balancing act. He will have to be ready for the matches when he goes it alone, has a shot, misses and Ronaldo starts throwing his arms up in the air.
“He cannot, at that point, go into his shell and become this timid little creature. But it is not natural for Gareth to behave in an assertive way.
“Don’t get me wrong, he knows he is good. The fee is crazy, amazing money, but he wouldn’t have fought so hard to get the deal done if he didn’t fancy his chances of living up to expectations in Madrid.
“Yet, equally, Gareth is a quiet lad, who spends time with his girlfriend and family, and I’m not sure being in the same bracket as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will suit him.
“I saw the photographs of him on his first day in Madrid, surrounded by relatives, and wondered how that young man will fare with a paparazzi camera being pushed into his face wherever he goes.
“His relationship with Ronaldo is the key to it all, because if the football is going well then all the added stresses are a minor irritation and nothing more.
“If the football is a struggle the other aggravations appear 10 times worse. Not many major British players go abroad and those that do are as likely to fail as succeed.
“If Ronaldo feels threatened by Gareth’s arrival, Madrid could be a lonely place so he will need to lean a lot on Ancelotti, who speaks good English, and Paul Clement, Carlo’s assistant, who is English. Luka Modric is another old friend who could help him settle in.
“The one thing the club cannot provide for Gareth and Cristiano is a ball each — so they will need to work hard on that partnership because they are such similar players.
“They are freaks, really. They can both shoot, both are good headers of the ball, they can both make 50-yard runs and stand over six feet.
“Madrid must guard against Gareth falling into the role of support act. He had a little trouble adjusting to the bigger environment of Tottenham after leaving Southampton and this is 10 times as great as that move.
“If I have a worry it is that I remember the days when Gareth’s confidence was draining fast at Spurs and there were genuine fears he might not make it. He wasn’t the strongest of characters back then and he cannot be allowed to fall into that same negative state of mind.
“If it doesn’t start like fireworks for him he will need Carlo to make sure he does not become isolated, left alone with his thoughts. He won’t like the attention a difficult start brings either. Gareth is a very private person and he won’t enjoy having every move scrutinised.
“The positive is that Gareth has grown a lot since his earliest days at White Hart Lane. His performances improved but so did his attitude. He wasn’t flash, or cocky — never the sort to be up the West End with a bottle of champagne — but he was more assured. He has to take that maturity to Madrid, though, or it will be hard.”