Gareth Bale 'ordained' by Real Madrid as transfer fee pays off
The Welshman's headed goal that delivered La Decima has elevated him to superstar status
Gareth Bale earned his place in Real Madrid hearts and history, and paid off his world record transfer fee, by scoring the decisive goal in Saturday's Champions League final against Atletico Madrid on Saturday as his side won a historic tenth European Cup success in his very first season at the Bernabeu.
Bale had not had the most impressive of nights in Lisbon, fluffing several chances to score before he finally found the net with a header in the 110th minute of the match. But his intervention gave Real Madrid the lead for the first time in the match and capped a fantastic turnaround for Los Blancos, who trailed 1-0 after 93 minutes, only for Sergio Ramos to head home and send the game into extra time.
Once Bale had scored, prompting a mad touchline dash from Xabi Alonso, the result seemed inevitable and there were further goals from Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo as the game ended 4-1, a scoreline that flattered Real.
Bale may have been forced to share the headlines but his efforts have made him a hero to Real Madrid fans. When he was introduced to Real fans as the team paraded the trophy on Sunday the roar "shook the Bernabeu to its foundations", says the BBC.
"The volume remained at deafening levels for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas - already established as Real demi-gods - but it was the ceremonial ordaining of Bale that most seemed to grip the Bernabeu."
After a difficult start to his career in Madrid, Bale has come good. His winner in the Copa del Rey made headlines and his efforts in the Champions League final have ended up justifying his record £86m transfer fee.
"It is impossible to remember a player being so decisive in his debut season," said Spanish paper Marca, according to The Guardian's Sid Lowe. It might have had a point, he adds. "At his presentation, Bale had promised to try to win La Decima. Many had made the same promise – in fact pretty much all of them had. But, for more than ten years, none delivered. Until now."
Part of his reward, says the Daily Telegraph, is the kind of solo promotional tour that only superstars go on. He will spend two days in Indonesia this week where he will paraded in front of fans.
"Bale's lucrative Jakarta appearance is further evidence that he is moving on to a similar level to La Liga's two other box-office stars, both on and off the pitch," says the paper. "With Ronaldo and Messi having to go away on World Cup duty, Welshman Bale will be the face of world football in Indonesia this summer." Meanwhile, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has warned that Bale will only get better next season.
In Bale's native Wales joy is unconfined. And ahead of the World Cup, Paul Abbandonato, writing for Wales Online can't resist a gentle dig at the English, claiming that in Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who scored the winner for Arsenal in the FA Cup a week earlier, Wales have footballing talent beyond anything on show in Roy Hodgson's squad.
"Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard may yet prove me wrong by shining for England in the World Cup this summer, but I believe that for the first time in history Wales possess the greatest two footballers in Britain," he says.