Having been flying high last summer after helping Real Madrid to a tenth European Cup title, the 2014-15 season has been something of a come-down for Wales star Gareth Bale.
– La Liga: Messi hands Barcelona 23rd title, Ronaldo scores hat-trick
– #360view: Real’s big signings haven’t worked but De Gea is perfect fit
– Barcelona still have a long way to claim treble glory – Luis Enrique
While his statistics are impressive, scoring 13 and assisting nine in La Liga alone, his performances have been questioned by both the club’s support and the Spanish media. As Real’s season has flatered of late, so the scrutiny has grown.
Bale need not dispair, though. He is a man in demand in England according to the newspapers. Given that speculation, it is unclear whether he will choose to stay and fight for his place among Real’s Galacticos next season.
Our #360debate today is: Should Gareth Bale leave Real Madrid this summer?
James Piercy, Deputy Editor, thinks YES.
I would love Gareth Bale to remain in the Spanish capital and prove his growing number of doubters wrong but his position and his role in the team is becoming unworkable.
It’s increasingly apparent that neither is he trusted by his team-mates – most notably Cristiano Ronaldo – nor does he feel confident enough to try and change their opinion.
Van Gaal on targets: When I think a player like Messi, Ronaldo or Bale can contribute in that (team) philosophy, they are welcome to come
— James Robson (@JamesRobsonMEN) May 16, 2015
His displays against Juventus were meek in the extreme. There was a greater belief in the second leg as he, unlike Ronaldo, didn’t hide and tried to force the issues to an extent. However, the quality was desperately lacking and it was wayward effort after wayward effort, the desperation and despair obvious.
It’s been a strange turn of events. After such an encouraging debut campaign at the Bernabeu, amid such pressure, he has gone backwards.
The issue can’t be a tactical or a technical one because Madrid’s counter-attacking style perfectly suits his powerful, direct game. In theory, him and Ronaldo either side of a No 9 should work perfectly but Bale’s best attributes are becoming masked by his discomfort and uncertainty in his role.
Granted he’s not the only guilty party and Madrid have been pretty average since January, but then again he’s been in a position to show he can triumph in adversity – and gain currency among the Madridistas – and has failed on that front.
While not speaking Spanish in his first season was accepted, to still have a language barrier almost two years after his move is clearly proving a problem.
The comparisons between Steve McManaman and Michael Owen have been rightfully raised. The former learned Spanish, immersed himself in the city and its culture and thrived; the latter lived in a hotel and was soon on his way home.
After a year away, Owen’s stock remained high in England and the same is the case of Bale who has a ready-made exit in the form of United.
At Old Trafford, or even the Etihad or Stamford Bridge, should a bidding war develop – with Madrid likely recouping a considerable fee – he would be a star again, in a league we all know he has excelled in before.
Matt Monaghan, Reporter, thinks NO.
The phrase ‘biggest club in the world’ is banded around with impunity. But when it comes to Real Madrid, those words do not ring hollow.
If Gareth Bale was to end his Spanish adventure this summer, the only way would be down. It would not matter if another world record transfer fee and the kudos it carries was banked to send him to Premier League giants Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea. The same conclusion would be inevitable.
Pressure appears to be slowly building to push the Wales forward away from the Bernabeu. This must be resisted.
Despite the sniping, only two more La Liga goals are needed for him to match the tally of 15 from his debut campaign. Similarly, only three more assists are required.
These are not disastrous numbers, when taken on their own. Yet when compared to monstrous team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, they look paltry.
Rather than cower in the Portuguese’s shadow, this should be seen as a challenge for 2015/16. If Bale can push for the Bernabeu crown, this would create an incredible legacy.
His electrifying final campaign at Tottenham Hotspur proved he has the ability to get there. An unstoppable wave was created which took him all the way to Real, with 21 often stupifying strikes being scored.
Short memories make it seem such feats ended when he left north London. His winning goal in April 2014’s Copa del Rey final against Barcelona was one of the most incredible conjured in the competition’s history, surging past leaden-footed right-back Marc Bartra before finishing with aplomb.
Such freedom and expression has eluded him in 2014/15. But for someone of his talent and youth at 25, it can return.
Players are written off all too soon at Real. Fellow Briton David Beckham can testify to that. Blacklisted by then head coach Fabio Capello and forgotten by many halfway through the 2006/07 season, he stormed back into the reckoning to propel Los Blancos to the title.
Bale has all the ability and desire to make history repeat itself in 2015/16.
Barcelona claimed their fifth La Liga title in seven years and their 23rd overall as Lionel Messi scored the winner in a 1-0 victory at Atletico Madrid.
Exactly a year to the day since Atletico won the league in a title decider at Barca’s Camp Nou, the Catalans exacted some measure of revenge to seal the first of a potential treble of trophies this season.
Luis Enrique’s men face Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey on home soil at the Camp Nou on May 30 and Juventus in the Champions League final a week later in Berlin.
Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 30th Real Madrid hat-trick as Los Blancos bounced back from their Champions League elimination at the hands of Juventus to beat Espanyol 4-1, but it mattered little as they still trail Barca by four points with just one game to play.
Five European leagues this season were won by ex-Barca staff/players: Luis Enrique José Mourinho Pep Guardiola Laurent Blanc Phillip Cocu
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 17, 2015
Meanwhile, defeat means Atletico need just a point on the final day to secure their place in the group stages of the Champions League next season by finishing third as Valencia could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Celta Vigo.
With temperatures at kick-off above 30 degrees celsius, a somewhat subdued start wasn’t surprising, but it was the hosts who had the better openings early on.
Vermaelen at Arsenal: 5 years, 0 League titles. Vermaelen at Barcelona: 0 minutes played, 1 league title.
— ChelseaTalk (@TheBlues_Talk) May 17, 2015
Claudio Bravo made a stunning save to palm Jose Maria Gimenez’s header from a corner and the Chilean produced another fine stop moments later from Antoine Griezmann, although the Frenchman had already been flagged offside.
Barca grew into the game as the half wore on with Messi testing Jan Oblak with a drive from the edge of the area and then a headed effort that was easily held by the Slovenian.
The visitors were then left furious at referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco as he turned down two huge penalty claims.
Firstly, another goalbound Messi header was diverted off target by the arm of Juanfran before Dani Alves went down under pressure from Diego Godin.
The best player ever pic.twitter.com/IpFxN74HCX
— BarcaHD (@Barcelona_HD) May 17, 2015
Godin was booked for a foul outside the box despite contact continuing inside the area and Messi curled the resulting free-kick off the crossbar.
Atletico threatened once more from a set-piece at the start of the second period but unlike his title winning strike last season, the unmarked Diego Godin couldn’t turn his header on target.
– Moment of magic –
As so often this season, it was Messi who provided the moment of magic for Barca as he played a neat one-two with Pedro Rodriguez inside the area before prodding the ball into the far corner.
Messi then teed up Neymar with a great opportunity to seal the title, but the Brazilian failed to continue his seven-game scoring streak as he blasted over with just Oblak to beat.
That miss mattered little, though, as the visitors comfortably saw out the final few minutes.
Madrid did all they could to keep the pressure on Barca as Ronaldo all but ensured he will at least win his duel with Messi to be the league’s top scorer by taking his tally for the league season to 45.
This is BARCA pic.twitter.com/BBpbFNuYmz
— BarcaHD (@Barcelona_HD) May 17, 2015
The Portuguese put Madrid ahead before an error from Keylor Navas allowed Christian Stuani to level for Espanyol.
However, Marcelo put Carlo Ancelotti’s men back in front before Ronaldo struck twice more in the final eight minutes.
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 30 hattricks for Real Madrid in all competitions. pic.twitter.com/PuKfyKG9zW
— RMadridHome (@RMadridHome) May 17, 2015
At the bottom Deportivo la Coruna and Granada moved out of the relegation zone with victories over Levante and Real Sociedad respectively.
They now lead Eibar and Almeria by two points with all four fighting for survival on the final day of the season next Saturday.
Real Madrid trained and talked on Saturday (16th May), ahead of their must-win game against Espanyol in the penultimate Spanish Primera League fixture of the season – as speculation continued regarding the future of coach Carlo Ancelotti.