The Blog

Gareth Bale: Why a Positional Move Is More Likely Than a Move Home

Something needs to change for our beloved Welshman. If it's not going to be a move away, Real Madrid need to do more to accommodate him. He'll always have that price tag hanging over him otherwise.

Real Madrid simply do not get strong-armed in the transfer market.

As much as most of us would love to see it happen, they don't wish to sell Gareth Bale this summer. So, they're not going to. They're Real Madrid, remember. And that's despite the continued speculation linking him with a return to the Premier League.

Florentino Perez doesn't work that way. It's only when he sees a brighter diamond - usually shining on British shores - and throws money at them, that he'll accept some collateral damage. We've seen it in the past with Mesut Ozil and we'll see it again this summer when David de Gea comes in to replace Iker Casillas.

Make no bones about it, Real are signing de Gea. It's a matter of when, not if.

But Bale's future won't lie away from Santiago Bernabeu unless he demands it, which - given how determined he is to make his spell in Spain a success - he won't do either. The only conceivable way Real would be willing to surrender Bale on their own terms is if they find a superior replacement.

Honestly, there isn't one that exists at the moment. There's nobody in Bale's bracket. Perhaps Marco Reus or Eden Hazard are his closest match, but even the latter needs to step up a level first. While he's won the Player of the Year award and his first Premier League title with Chelsea this season, it's damning to think that his best ever season works out inferior to one of Bale's 'worst'.

Hazard - with 14 goals and eight assists in 37 Premier League games - can't boast a superior scoring ratio to the former Tottenham man (13 goals and nine assists in 31). Perhaps with roles and responsibilities reversed, things would look different. But that's hypothetical.

Nevertheless, Bale's not had his best year. He's played over 500 more La Liga minutes for Real this term compared to last, had more shots, made less assists (12 last year compared to the nine this) and the Welshman's down on goals. He looks down on his luck and down on confidence to boot.

Perhaps it's the fact that Bale's not Real's main man. Perhaps it's the pressure from the fans - though nobody is exempt from that treatment when the team doesn't perform. Or perhaps it's his position on the pitch.

We don't get to see that Gareth Bale that sprung to prominence at Tottenham with a hat-trick at the San Siro in 2010. He's regularly taken up a place on the opposite flank, but one thing that's been consistently overlooked in the Bale criticism is that it's not his natural position. He can't play the game that made him famous.

And even while devastating from the right on occasion - heck, it's Gareth Bale - he's suffered because Ballon d'Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo owns the left side.

Though that's not to say that it's wrong to play Bale on the opposite flank, because if Ronaldo is hitting 58 goals a season from there it's hard to argue with it.

But it could be some explanation for Bale's shortcomings. His best moment of last season - winning the Spanish Cup for his side against Barcelona - came courtesy of a lung-busting run down the left flank. Ronaldo watched on from the sidelines.

It's how Bale made his name at Tottenham and it's how he earned his move to Madrid in the first place.

His first port of call from his current position is to cut back inside and into congested central areas and even when he does get into the areas to cross the ball, he has to bring the ball back to his left first. It limits his options and he's far easier to stop.

Now even if Bale were to leave Madrid in the summer and let's say move to Manchester United, it'd be the right side he dons once more. Memphis Depay will arrive and he bears massive similarity to Ronaldo's style. But rest assured that Bale's going nowhere - he'll be given another chance to flourish in Madrid. And perhaps next season it'll be in his former role.

Let's not kid ourselves, the Ronaldo of today is a centre forward. 41 of his 45 goals in the league this season have come from inside the penalty area. His successful take on percentage (49%) trails bad-guy Bale's (55%) significantly. It's telling of the times and whoever manages the club next season should be recognising that.

Perhaps it'll finally come to it that Ronaldo shifts central and Bale gets his chance in his natural position. But then again, perhaps not. If it ain't broke, don't fix it and all that.

But something needs to change for our beloved Welshman. If it's not going to be a move away, Real Madrid need to do more to accommodate him. He'll always have that price tag hanging over him otherwise.

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