In Depth

Real Madrid: can Gareth Bale replace Cristiano Ronaldo as the Bernabeu king?

Wales star set to stay at the European champions and be a key player once again

Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus has left a major hole in the Real Madrid attack, but could they already have a ready-made replacement in their squad?

The name being suggested by Spanish publication AS is Gareth Bale. The Welsh star has been linked with Manchester United and Bayern Munich this summer but it’s claimed today that he is set to stay at the Bernabeu. 

After scoring twice in the 3-1 win against Liverpool in the Champions League final in May it was reported that Bale was seeking more first-team football after spending a lot of time on the bench for the Spanish giants last season.

But with Ronaldo and head coach Zinedine Zidane having since departed Madrid, AS believes that Bale is ready to step up in CR7’s place and become a key figure again at the Bernabeu.

Bale to be Real’s leading man

Former Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui has taken over from Zidane and speculation continues that Chelsea and Belgium star Eden Hazard is being lined-up for a big-money transfer. Also linked are Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

However, AS journalist Marco Ruiz believes that Bale is the player that Real will look to as their “leading man for the new era”. Ruiz writes: “The Welshman is already in his sixth season in the Spanish capital and, in spite of the rumours linking him with a move away from the club, and his apparent inability to stay fit, seeing that Neymar and Mbappe are missions impossible, the focus has changed.

“Now, without Cristiano and Zidane, the door to the white throne may just be reopening for Gareth Bale.”

Bale more marketable than Hazard

Even if Chelsea star Hazard does join Real this summer, Bale still has true “star value” says Ruiz. Since joining Real from Tottenham in 2013 for a then-world-record £85m deal, Bale has won four Champions League medals, two Fifa Club World Cup titles and a La Liga championship.

Ruiz writes: “Hazard is one top player in the market that has caught the eye but is not the star that [Real president] Florentino Pérez wants to lead the headline-making project, neither on the field nor as a player that can provide a strong financial return. Bale maintains his star value.”

‘Give Bale the opportunity he deserves’

The Madridismo fans website also believes it’s “now or never” for Bale to show his true worth at the Bernabeu. Writer Ali H says the club should “give him the opportunity that he deserves”.

“At 29-years-old, Gareth Bale is smart enough to know that it’s now or never for him at the club,” said the writer. “Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer in the picture and neither is Zidane. Under Julen Lopetegui, he has the opportunity to show exactly why Real Madrid paid so much for him and prove all the doubters wrong once again.

“Personally, I would rather we keep Gareth Bale in the squad and not sign a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo if that is what it takes. If he can stay fit [and it’s worth the risk of seeing whether or not he can], then he is the correct replacement right now.”

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