Valdano criticism the perfect pep talk for Bale

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Nine goals in 13 La Liga starts. Two goals in three Champions League starts. Nine assists to go along with those nine league goals, too. A role in one of the world's most formidable attacks and a player who is looking to help win every trophy possible for Real Madrid this season. Not bad for someone who has been branded "unhappy" and "downcast" this week.

Gareth Bale hasn't exactly had the most fluid of starts since making his big-money move from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid last summer, largely due to a lack of a pre-season and numerous nagging injuries that have followed, but the quotes from Los Blancos' former player, coach and sporting director Jorge Valdano this week seem wide of the mark for the most part.

- Report: Valdano: "Downcast" Bale is struggling
- Train: Too early to decide Bale vs. Jese

Valdano, who left his position as the club's sporting director in 2011 following a power struggle with Jose Mourinho, told Spanish sports radio station El Larguero: "Bale has a strange anxiety because you do not notice it in the intensity of play. When someone is anxious, they play at a speed above what suits them, but it is like he is somewhere else. That is the strange sensation you get from him." He added: "The team are saving him. There are so many points to consider, among them Jese who is drawing so much attention."

If Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti needed to give the Welshman a pep talk before Saturday's match against Elche at the Bernabeu, he need do no more than print out Valdano's words and stick them to Bale's locker -- "Go out and prove him wrong". But it was perhaps the Italian's comments on his wing wizard following Sunday's comfortable 3-0 win at Getafe that sparked Valdano's remarks. Bale "lacked quality" but had "quantity" at the Coliseum, according to his boss, and to be fair the description was apt. Last weekend's outing was not the best in the all-white for the 24-year-old, who was the only one of his side's front three not to get on the scoresheet. The saving grace was that Ancelotti said he wants his forwards "to work for the team", and Bale at least did that.

Let's not pretend Bale has been an out-and-out sensation since making his record-breaking switch to the Spanish capital, however. He may not have given off the impression of someone "unhappy" and "downcast", but Bale has not been at his best, nor should he be expected to be just yet. Rewind to last season and Luka Modric, now a fan favourite at the Bernabeu, took time to adjust to a new team and a new league and was branded the worst signing of the season in a fans' poll in Marca. Bale has not received that "award", but he'll need time to adjust. As with plenty of players, the second season can be expected to be better than the first, especially when it's a new country on top of a new team.

Valdano said "there are so many points to consider" about Bale, and he'd be right. Hopefully one of those points he's referring to is the period of adjustment. Another should be the fact the Welshman did not have a full pre-season owing to injury, and he's endured minor setback after minor setback in his race to get fully fit. His game, much like Cristiano Ronaldo on the opposite flank, is based on pace and power in the attack, and while Madrid fans have seen plenty of glimpses of that, they've not seen him in full swing week after week.

It'd be hard to justify the player's price tag at this point. Indeed, it might be hard to justify his price tag ever, but Bale should be relatively pleased with his start to life in Madrid. Without controlling games as he often did for Spurs, he's more than played his part in a star-studded line-up -- all this remember, without that pre-season under his belt. The statistics speak for themselves and when the pressure was on Bale to perform on his return to the starting line-up against Villarreal, he performed. It took him less than ten minutes to open the scoring and he set up the next goal for Karim Benzema, too. Welcome back, Gareth.

One thing Valdano, who is one for controversial remarks in the press, couldn't be more wrong on is the statement that the rest of Madrid's team are saving him. Youngster Jese Rodriguez has been a sensation, Modric has fast become of the first names on the team sheet and Benzema is in as good a form as he's been at the Bernabeu, but they are far from carrying their new teammate; instead, they are flourishing alongside him. We watch on with interest to see if Ancelotti will pluck out Jese or Bale when Cristiano Ronaldo returns from suspension.

If the Italian does stick with Bale, Jese and his growing band of supporters will be unhappy, but the Welshman should grow with time. He completed 90 minutes for the third match in a row at the weekend and he should reap the benefits for more regular match action. While the first half of his debut season in Madrid was a stop-start affair, Bale's lack of action may have him closer to top form at the "business end" of the season, where titles are won and where things really matter.

When he was playing a run of matches in the first half of the campaign, he showed what he was all about. Perhaps thrust into the first El Clasico of the season without being 100 per cent, Bale then went on to play seven matches inside a month in all competitions, scoring seven goals and producing five assists, his purple patch for the campaign to date. He had a hand in a goal in every game he played in in that spell, highlighting his importance to the team.

Valdano has some valid points in his criticism of the Bale, points that have been aired elsewhere about Bale's start to life in Madrid, but he's an easy target given the megabucks he cost Los Blancos. The huge fee doesn't seem to be a burden on Bale, more so his injury problems and adjustment period to a club such as Madrid, but it seems to hand a stick to those keen to assess his impact in the months he's been in La Liga.

The Argentine is wide of the mark in other areas, however, and Bale will be sure to try and hammer that home when Elche visit this weekend. Bale is set to start his fourth game in a row on Saturday afternoon, and he'll be looking to continue clocking up stats that are not too dissimilar to that of a certain Lionel Messi this term. He'll also be looking to prove Valdano wrong and he'll be aiming to cement a starting role alongside the returning Ronaldo and Benzema for next week's Champions League trip to Schalke.


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