Roy Keane didn’t mince words about Gareth Bale’s performance in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. “It’s very difficult to win a big game like this when you’re only playing with 10 men,” said Keane. “Gareth Bale gave them absolutely nothing
Harsh words, perhaps, but Bale’s numbers for the loss to Juventus were truly abysmal:
0 Shots on goal.
18 passes (fewer than any other Real Madrid player)
27 touches (fewer than any other Real Madrid player)
Beyond the numbers, Bale’s lack of interest made it seem like he thought it was a summer friendly, rather than a match that perfectly encapsulated those huge European nights so many look forward to.
Meanwhile, Juventus forward Álvaro Morata, a guy who couldn’t get on the field for Real Madrid last season because Gareth Bale has to play every minute of every game by royal decree, gave Madrid’s defense nightmares with his constant movement and intelligent hold up play. He even scored a goal! Now, Morata is a guy who has roughly a tenth of Bale’s natural physical and technical qualities. But that only takes you so far in a sport where intelligence counts much more, and that is where the Welshman comes up woefully short.
This is most evident in games against top teams, against whom Real Madrid typically struggles – despite a squad packed with world class players. El Real has 13 out of a possible 27 points against the top 6 teams in La Liga. The club’s victories over Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla came without Bale in the starting lineup. In fact, without Bale in the starting lineup, the team is 11-0 this season.
Yet he still plays. Always. Before he injured his calf against Málaga on April 18th, Bale played the full 90 minutes through the previous 19 matches, netting six goals. Remember, this is the most expensive player in the history of the world. He always plays.