The Portuguese scored both goals to give Los Blancos a hard-fought win at Eibar, in what was another disappointing afternoon for the Welsh winger
Cristiano Ronaldo’s rise continues. The 33-year-old was on target twice to give Real Madrid all three points at Eibar on Saturday. But, alongside him in attack, these are trying times for Gareth Bale.
The Portuguese made the difference again. His fantastic form in 2018 is quite a contrast to his struggles in front of goal in the Primera Division earlier on in the season. In the first half of the campaign, he netted only four times. But now, in early March and despite the occasional rest, he has already added 14 more.
Three goals against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League – two at the Santiago Bernabeu and one at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday – also helped Zinedine Zidane’s side secure their place in the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition. Cristiano is well and truly back to doing what he does best.
But amid Ronaldo’s rise, Bale’s star is fading at Real. The Welsh winger was willing at Eibar on Saturday, but struggled to make an impact in the tight spaces of a small playing surface at Ipurua.
It was one of those afternoons for the 28-year-old. Whatever he tried did not really seem to come off. His movement was sometimes slow, while he cut an isolated figure and there appeared to be a lack of communication with his team-mates too. He also missed the target with a header from close range.
Bale did not start either of the games against PSG in the last 16 of the Champions League and is clearly falling down the pecking order at Madrid. And, although he is still being used by Zidane in some fixtures, it is a much more secondary role for the former Tottenham man these days.
A three-time Champions League winner since his €100 million move from White Hart Lane in the summer of 2013, Bale has been hampered by injuries during his time in Spain and his impressive early-season sparkle has also gone in recent weeks.
“He is in a team where there are many players and sometimes he hasn’t played,” Zidane said on Friday. “He is fundamental for us and he will be until the end of the season, just like the others. There is nothing more.
“I have to pick a team every three days and that is what I am doing. It is not a problem for him because we talk. He knows where he is and that all of the players are important. You [the media] want to look for a problem, but there is no problem. Gareth is important, but there are other important players.”
That message, however, is very similar to how Zidane used to speak of James Rodriguez, who was ultimately sent away to Bayern Munich on a two-year loan after finding his opportunities limited under the French coach.
It is also quite different to Zidane’s initial message on arrival as coach at Real, when he would not reveal his preferences in terms of team selection, but said: “The idea is to play with the three (Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema) in attack.”
That is no longer the case, with Zidane also opting for 4-4-2 in recent times and Bale, despite finishing the game on Saturday wide left – the position where he made his name at Spurs – was unable to shine once again.
So, while Ronaldo remains as important as ever with his goals for Los Blancos, the Welshman’s influence continues to fade at Real Mwinger