The career of Gareth Bale is perhaps one of the most unique in the modern era. A player that has rightfully earnt his name amongst football’s elite, one that commands respect from his peers and opponents, has written his name into the history books for a plethora of big moments and one that has the trophy haul to back everything up. Yet, at times throughout his journey through London, Madrid and now Los Angeles, you felt he’s never really received the level of love his mesmerising skillset has deserved.
Yes, when it comes to the international game Bale is a god amongst mortals. And as Wales gear up for the World Cup, their first since 1950, you expect the forward, who has taken up a more central role since guiding an exceptionally ordinary side to the quarter-final of Euro 2016, to once again be in the spotlight when jetting off to Qatar. But the way he leaves Los Blancos will surely leave a bitter taste in his mouth, regardless of how he was treated.
His departure from Madrid after a nine-year spell – interrupted only by a brief reunion with Tottenham Hotspur on loan–was met with a lukewarm reception; surprising given all that the 33-year-old had done in the Spanish capital. A true Galactico, Bale epitomised what it meant to play at the very top. A pure athlete with the technical ability to mix it with the best, his prime years were plagued by injuries which resulted in some time on the treatment table. Consequently, this cost him a relationship with the Madristas, who grew frustrated with his absence and began to boo him.
Despite winning the Copa Del Ray almost singlehandedly with a solo run against Barcelona, and winning five Champions Leagues, scoring perhaps the best individual goal in the competition’s history with an acrobatic overhead kick against Liverpool, Bale had fallen out of love with the Madrid fans, and began fuelling the fire with his ‘Wales, Golf, Madrid’ banner, now infamously overshadowing some of his finest moments at the Santiago Bernabéu.
There were handfuls of applause when he officially left the club during their Champions League winning ceremony at the start of June, and with the Welshman joining Los Angeles FC, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to play and get fit again ahead of the World Cup, as well as brush up on his golf game at Spyglass Hill and other luscious green courses, which the winger jokingly said influenced his decision to move to LA.
The Californians are building on a strong side, and after a busy transfer window look to have an outside shot at the MLS title with football bets today. Ancelotti managed Bale’s games well and he’ll walk into the starting 11 at the Banc of California Stadium alongside Giorgio Chiellini, who signs from Juventus.
The two marquee signings still have lots to offer, and chief executive John Thorrington has admitted the deal was made through Bale’s decision to play valuable minutes rather than earn a big payday in the American sun.
“Gareth was a much quicker and opportunistic dynamic, rather than a planned for signing, and that was on account of Wales qualifying [for the World Cup] and conversations took place after that,” he said.
“I don’t like discussing contractual details, but what I can talk about is that we were never going to win a conversation that was based on money, and thankfully these guys [Bale and Giorgio Chiellini] are not driven by that. They really see the chance to make a big difference.”
At 33, Bale might have his best years behind him in terms of athleticism, and a combination of injuries and loss of confidence have led to a couple of underwhelming years domestically. But if he can rediscover his best form for Wales, they have more than enough of a chance of getting out of their World Cup group, consisting of Iran, England and the countryof his current employers, the USA.