It’s with a heavy heart that I have to write this, because at one point Gareth Bale was one of the most exciting players in Europe to watch.
His incredible speed, strength, technique and that wand of a left foot made Bale and Tottenham must-see when the Welshman was entering his peak back in 2012.
As Bale transitioned from hopeless left-back to Spurs’ great hope between 2011 and 2013, he became one of the hottest prospects in the game.
After tearing up the Premier League and securing a world record £85m move to Real Madrid, Bale was expected to take off into superstardom and replace the great Cristiano Ronaldo as he approached his 30’s. Instead, Ronaldo has continued to shine as he hits 36 years old while Bale is now well and truly finished.
Many believed that after two years of sitting around getting minuscule and unimportant minutes at Real Madrid, that a fresh environment and return “home” is all that he needed to get back to his flying best at 31 years old.
But they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Since his return, Bale has scored just one Premier League goal and is now being targeted for criticism from boss Jose Mourinho. This was especially obvious following the 1-0 defeat to Brighton on Sunday night, where Bale started but was taken off after an hour with the team still chasing a goal.
While the Welsh wizard hasn’t been a regular in the starting lineup, Mourinho has previously claimed that he needs to earn those minutes. With Harry Kane currently out injured, there was no better chance for him to make an impression.
Instead Bale played it safe constantly, looks shy when it comes to pulling the trigger and is lacking the zest and intensity to his game that once made him so feared.
His constant muscle injuries have finally caught up with him. His calves and hamstrings are volatile, he can’t sprint past people like he was once able to. Technically he is good enough to adapt his game to be able to not rely on those physical attributes though. He can pick a pass, he can cross a ball, he can still dribble out of tight spaces – he just chooses not to.
When you watch him, he looks disinterested. His love and hunger for the game has gone. He seems content to live off his legacy and reputation, rather than enhancing it with performances now.
His loan is unlikely to turned permanent in the summer and Real Madrid are definitely not going to renew his contract, which means he will have a year left on his deal. A move to the MLS beckons, potentially with David Beckham’s Inter Miami FC, where Bale can capitalise on his stardom and still be one of the best players in his team.
As for now, Bale is finished at the top level – no doubts about it.