Now or never for Bale

It has not been the easiest of starts to the season for Gareth Bale. Before his goal in Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Real Sociedad last Sunday, his performances had been below-par, and with the result sandwiched by successive draws at the Santiago Bernabeu against Valencia and Levante, plus a shock defeat to Real Sociedad, the Welshman became an easy scapegoat for certain fans.

Bale did score in the first La Liga game of the campaign at Deportivo La Coruna, but generally he has not really hit the ground running yet. With Cristiano Ronaldo serving a lengthy ban, it was expected that the No 11 would step up and be Madrid’s main man, but that has not happened. Instead, it has been Isco and Marco Asensio who have taken their opportunities, and the Bernabeu faithful have not taken to the 28-year-old’s form lightly. 

As strike partners Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema will very well know, some sections of Los Blancos’ support can be very fickle at times. It might seem a strange thing to do in England, but booing a player in bad form at the Bernabeu is quite a common occurrence.

“Bale? He’s going to play his part,” said Coach Zinedine Zidane before the clash at Anoeta. “He’s feeling better with each day. He’s spent four months away from the team, and in order to return to his level, he needs at least four months to be like he was before.”

However, the former Tottenham Hotspur star could have started his reprisal last Sunday with a goal that showcased exactly what he is and has always been about. Isco lofted a long ball into Bale’s path, allowing him to blitz past Kevin Rodrigues and lift the ball over Geronimo Rulli in the kind of fashion the football world has become accustomed to as his standing in the game has increased over the years. 

The goal served as a reminder, and when asked about the boo boys after the game, Bale responded in his typically-calm style.

“These issues are part of football and you cannot do anything about it,” he explained. “You have to keep working hard so it doesn't happen. The most important thing here was the win and three points. It was a game and a result that we needed.”

The opportunity is there now for Bale to push on and return to his best form in a Madrid shirt, something that is crucial if he wants to be playing there in the coming years. The fact that Kylian Mbappe chose to go to Paris Saint-Germain this summer means that for now, his place in the starting XI should be secure, although it remains unclear how Zidane will choose to line up his team when he has everyone available. 

If Bale cannot use this goal as the catalyst for his season, it really could be the end for him in the Spanish capital. He should be in the prime years of his career now, and if the club do not feel they are getting the best out of him, they could look to ship him out.

Staying injury-free is also an important factor in whether or not Bale can return to his best, but if he does, his goal against La Real shows that all the ingredients are there for him to do it.