What has Bale got to live up to?

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According to various reports across Europe, Gareth Bale looks set to become the most expensive player in the history of football this week. If all is to be believed, he will join Real Madrid in a deal worth around £93-million with Fabio Coentrao moving in the opposite direction – a substantially bigger fee than was used to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernabeu in 2009, even with today’s inflation rates.

This astounding figure will be the fifth consecutive time that the Madrid giants have smashed the world record, and the quality of player it has brought has usually been top class. If the likely transfer is indeed completed then Bale will automatically become inexorably compared to the other Galacticos, so how exactly will he fare against the last four holders of that title?

In 2000, Madrid completed the record signing of a certain Luis Figo for £37-million from rivals Barcelona. The Portuguese winger was an instant hit, scoring 14 times in his first season and adding countless assists to help Real win La Liga and the Super Cup. Figo would also star in Real Madrid’s next season, winning the Uefa Champions League as well as the Uefa Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup. The ex-Sporting playmaker eventually won seven trophies in a six year stay, scoring 57 goals in 239 matches and becoming an all-time los blancos legend.

Just the very year after signing Figo, Madrid once again smashed the record when they captured France and Juventus star Zinedine Zidane. In his first season with Real, the midfield magician scored 12 goals in 49 appearances, helping Madrid win their record ninth Champions League. Zidane became one of the greatest players of all time at Madrid despite little success in the way of trophies. His skilful playmaking was unrivalled and at times it was as though no one was on quite the same level as the Algerian born man, who notched up 49 goals and over 50 assists in 225. He also picked up the Fifa Player of the Year award in 2003 as well as six trophies in five years.

In 2009, Madrid shocked the world when they signed Brazilian hero Kaka from Ac Milan in a deal worth £56-million. The former Sao Paolo attacking midfielder was considered one of the finest players of this generation and arrived at the capital with huge expectation. In his first season, despite some injury niggles, he scored nine goals and recorded 8 assists in 33 games as Madrid failed to win any trophies. Injury problems have blighted Kaka’s Madrid career largely and he has never been the same player that graced Serie A, but he still showed signs of the old genius in 2011/12. Kaka netted 8 times and created 14 goals as Los Blancos reclaimed the La Liga title from Barcelona and won the Super Cup. He is still with the club and to date has scored 29 goals, with 32 assists in 120 games.

The very same summer, just a few weeks after sealing the Kaka deal, Madrid sent the world in to a frenzy by completing the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo from Man United for £80-million. The 2008 Balon D’or winner instantly picked up where he left off at United, with 33 goals in 35 games in his debut season. The destructive Portuguese has been, along with Leo Messi, the best player in the world by some distance since his switch to the Madrid club. CR7 has since been breaking records at both Madrid and La Liga, becoming the first player to score 40 goals in a league season twice, scoring against every team in La Liga in the same season and many more. The ex-Manchester legend has scored an incredible 201 goals in just 200 games for the Galacticos, a daunting haul for Bale to follow.

Bale is next in a long line of talent captured and displayed by Madrid in the last decade. Whether he will live up to past players is impossible to say, but he certainly has the game to be huge in the Spanish capital. What is also up for debate is whether he will get to play alongside his idol, Ronaldo, or indeed replace him. The deal still needs to be completed yet, and barring any large complications, Bale should make the switch in time for La Liga week 3 in which Madrid face Bilbao, a decent game to win over the Madridistas.

Picture – Guardian.com




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