The €105m world record signing is looking for his third trophy of 2014 with Real Madrid having made decisive contributions in Copa del Rey and Champions League triumphs
By Greg Stobart
You would expect a world-record signing to make a decisive impact on the big stage and Gareth Bale has done just that since his sensational €105 million move to Real Madrid.
It has been a dream 2014 for the Welshman and he is looking to finish it off by winning the Club World Cup in Morocco this week, where Real Madrid’s matches in the competition will be streamed live on Goal.
Bale already has two medals in his trophy cabinet in the Spanish capital and is now looking to add his third in the calendar year after winning the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey during his first season at the club.
But despite registering 22 goals and 19 assists in 44 appearances in his debut campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Welshman continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United.
Those who know Bale, however, have laughed off talk that he will be a €113m target for Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford as early as next summer.
And though the former Tottenham man is still the subject of speculation linking him with a return to England, it is the furthest thing from his thoughts at the moment.
Instead, Bale wants to become a legend at the Bernabeu, pack his CV with titles and compete for the Ballon d’Or before he even considers a return to the Premier League.
There were question marks over whether Bale, once considered a ‘home boy’ who regularly returned to Cardiff from the bright lights and bustling streets of London, would adapt to life in Spain. It is a road less travelled for British footballers.
But Bale has settled comfortably into his new life in Madrid with long-term girlfriend Emma Rhys Jones and daughter Alba Violet, who stayed in Cardiff when the 25-year-old was at Spurs but now live with him in a mansion in La Finca in the Pozuelo de Alarcon suburbs of western Madrid.
Bale’s agent Joshua Barnett also moved out to the Spanish capital to help him settle in, while his childhood friends from Wales are regular visitors.
The 25-year-old is immersing himself in the culture of his new city of residence. In a recent interview, Bale spoke of his love of Spanish ham and he regularly eats at the Mesón Txistu restaurant, a popular hangout for the Real Madrid squad.
Former Tottenham team-mate Luka Modric, his best friend at the club, still has to act as a de factotranslator at times, but Bale’s Spanish is improving day by day, helped by three lessons a week.
How he really likes to communicate, though, is with his feet.
In the Copa Del Rey final last season, the 25-year-old scored a stunning late goal to win the trophy for Real Madrid against bitter rivals Barcelona.
Then, in May, he scored Real Madrid’s vital second goal to put them ahead in extra time on their way to that triumph over Atletico Madrid to finally win La Decima, that elusive 10th European crown.
Now, as kings of Europe, Real Madrid and Bale face Mexican side Cruz Azul in Marrakech on Tuesday in the Club World Cup semi-final on the back of 20 victories in a row in all competitions.
Bale may not be the main man as he was at Tottenham, but he is more than a mere supporting act to Cristiano Ronaldo in this Real Madrid side.
Once the man who waited 25 matches for a Premier League victory and who was almost sent to Birmingham City on loan, Bale is a bona fide superstar and the most expensive player in football history.
He can get better. Bale needs to work on his weaker right foot and must impose himself on games more in the same manner he did when he became a regular match-winner for Tottenham.
But he has shown already on the biggest stage this year that he is capable of doing that for Real Madrid, too.
Now a third trophy of 2014 is in his sights as he looks to round off the year in style.