Monday, September 12, 2016

Gareth Bale Ready To Take Over From Cristiano Ronaldo?

Welsh international Gareth Bale has made an impressive start to the season for club and country, and there is a real hope now that he can become the most important player for Real Madrid.

The signs were there on the opening weekend of the season when he stepped up in Cristiano Ronaldo's absence to score twice against Real Sociedad.

Bale has now scored 14 goals in 14 La Liga games he's started without Ronaldo. But what's really interesting is whether he can now be Madrid's go-to man even when Ronaldo is around.

It has not always been easy for him. Compared to his goal-a-game record without Ronaldo, Bale has scored 34 in 64 when the Portuguese is in the starting line-up. But those numbers are improving.

In his first two seasons in Madrid, Bale was not even managing to score a goal every other game with Ronaldo in the team. But that rate almost doubled last season.

It can be seen as a reflection of his growing influence on this Madrid side. After that dip in his second season, when some supporters turned on him, he has pushed for greater involvement and he has got it.

The days when Bale was restricted to the right wing seem to be over. Now he is free to roam in search of the ball and make the difference for his team.

In a way, that is a natural evolution due to the changes in Ronaldo's game. Now 31, Ronaldo's movement is more restricted and that has allowed Bale to take up the mantle.

For example, if you look at the numbers of passes and shots that the two men have had in La Liga season-by-season, you can identify this trend.

In the 2015/16 season, Bale made more passes and had more shots per 90 minutes than ever before in a Madrid shirt. Meanwhile, Ronaldo was involved less.

So far this season, Bale's numbers are up again. In their home game against Celta Vigo last month, he had eight shots - only six players have managed more than that in the first three games of the La Liga season combined.

Is Bale becoming Madrid's new Ronaldo then? Physically, he certainly seems to have modelled himself on the Portuguese player.

He's a powerhouse now - Bale scored more headers than anyone in the major European leagues last season. With 10 assists too, he is contributing from deep and in the box.

Of course, he is still a long way from becoming quite so important as he was to Tottenham. In his final season at Spurs, his goals alone were responsible for adding 22 points to the team's total.

But he is trending in the right direction. In each of his four years in Madrid, his goals have directly led to more points than the previous year.

As Ronaldo's game evolves and Bale grows into his new role, expect that trend to continue but this definitely will take anything away from Uefa European footballer of the year.

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