Beyond the financial numbers of the Gareth Bale arrival to Real Madrid is the simple issue of making it work. Gareth Bale is an excellent player, but one that’s still developing and probably improving. Cristiano Ronaldo is the finished product, and as history has taught us, a slightly fragile one when it comes to his emotions. One of them, or even both of them, will be forced to change.
Who comes out of the lineup for Bale? There’s no way the most expensive footballer in the world is left on the bench, unless it is the first match, as debutantes often go through some sort of transition process. But for so much money, the heat will be on Bale from the first moment. Eyes won’t be turned only to his goal numbers and production on the pitch, but on the way he interacts with Cristiano Ronaldo.
The former most expensive footballer in the world has been playing on the left wing for Ancelotti, but with a stronger pull to the middle, where sometimes it feels a bit crowded for both him and Karim Benzema. It’s hard to say we’ve seen an impressive performance from Real Madrid, although their 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao (one Ronaldo goal, two from Isco) was certainly an improvement.
So who pays the price? Karim Benzema? Angel di Maria? Isco?! Hard to believe the young Spaniard, scoring three goals and adding an assist on his first three matches with Real Madrid is going to be the one left out of the lineup. Bale is a left winger, but he played quite a lot in a more central position last season for Spurs. He might not be a striker, but he was often the most forward positioned player for the team, which might hint at Benzema paving way for Bale.
That means Cristiano Ronaldo will play in something very similar to a centre forward. Or maybe Isco will move right and be a wide attacking midfielder, with Sami Khedira helping cover for his defensive duties, while Bale playing the attacking midfielder role behind Karim Benzema, and keeping Cristiano Ronaldo on the left. Plenty of options, but it’s not too certain all of them will work, and how happy it’ll keep certain individuals.
Changes will have to be made by both players. Ronaldo has already undergone some sort of transformation under Jose Mourinho, but Ancelotti may now demand him for a little bit more flexibility in order to make Bale, who on paper seems a little less versatile than Ronaldo, feel more comfortable. The key to that part being successful is Cristiano Ronaldo, who might no longer be a one-man show on Real Madrid, but is the main act and ingredient in the future success of Bale and the club.