It took Real Madrid some time, more than half an hour, to start pulling out all the stops. The pressure, the buzz around the Santiago Bernabeu was growing slightly louder. “They can’t do it with Ronaldo, they’re doomed without him…” Gareth Bale needed some time too when he first signed with the club. A hat trick and another assist later, no one was even thinking about the Portuguese star anymore.
When they signed him from Tottenham, this is what they had in mind. Just like Ronaldo seemed to find it quite easy in the Spanish La Liga in comparison to the English Premier League from a physical standpoint, so does Gareth Bale. He’s not the most polished player in the world from a technical standpoint, but his natural gifts make him almost impossible to stop unless he’s marked correctly. Valladolid players are still trying to find the answers, 12 hours after being drubbed 4-0.
This is supposed to be the tiebreaker in their ever lasting lock with Barcelona, although things haven’t worked out perfectly so far. But Bale makes up for a lot of the mistakes done early this season by Carlo Ancelotti or the poor form of certain players on Real Madrid, like Isco or Luka Modric. At his best, playing on the left or right (free role in any case) he’s a one-man wrecking crew, be it with his bulldozer style dribbling or his ability to shoot from any angle with his left foot. Recently, he’s been quite close to that best we’re speaking of.
Perfect hat-tricks aren’t easy to come by, but it wasn’t only about Bale’s performance that made Real Madrid’s win standout. There’s some Joie de vivre in Real’s most recent performances that don’t have the seriousness of Ronaldo on the pitch. Less frowns, less demand to be supplied with the ball at all times. Less cheating as well. Bale only dives, yet he doesn’t demand a hand ball or something else any time something doesn’t go his way like the Portuguese star does.
Maybe Real Madrid’s recent form should be looked at from another angle. Yes, Sami Khedira is injured, but he never was the most important player in that midfield unit. Xabi Alonso is back in full form, and it’s clear to see just how much Real Madrid were missing him. Not just his intelligence and experience as a defensive midfielder, but there’s simply no one on this team capable of switching and turning attack into defense in a matter of seconds with such accuracy. Things seem more simple, less stuck, when he’s on the pitch.
It’s all about the waiting game for Real Madrid from here. Waiting for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to stumble (not happening for now), and improving their goal difference in the meantime. There will be tougher ventures than Valladolid at home, but Bale’s rise puts a lot less pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo to make a premature return, unless he’ll start fretting about his status as the number one player on the team.