It isn’t unthinkable that Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego might have been bruised by Gareth Bale’s record arrival. For the first couple of days it might be a daunting challenge for Bale just to turn up for training, as he did for the first time on Wednesday.
He is the most expensive player in the world, but he is not yet recognised as one of the best in the world as that status belongs to a handful of other people – one of whom will be standing next to him in a training top. Bale might have joined as the most expensive player in history but arguably he is only the fourth best player in La Liga after Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Ronaldo is the main man at Madrid, but handily, Bale doesn’t seem to have an ego on or off the field, and Ronaldo will realise that soon enough. On the pitch, the Welshman doesn’t need to satisfy himself with a certain amount of goals – if he plays well all season and only scores 15 he will be happy – while Ronaldo is different. He needs to score 50 before he is happy.
Ronaldo will discover that Bale is not a threat to him – in terms of his position on the pitch and the status he craves. At this stage he might have an eye on him, but Bale will quite happily play second string to Ronaldo, at least for now.
Over time, Ronaldo might even let him take a few free-kicks. In two or three months’ time they won’t have a problem at all.
It has been said Madrid were even telling Ronaldo that it wasn’t a world record deal to stop him having a strop, but to be honest, if you are that good you can afford to have a bit of an ego on you. We’ve seen people develop big heads without the ability to back it up – Ronaldo isn’t like that. He always delivers.
He might be a bit of a diva but he trains hard and plays exceptionally well.
In terms of how they will link up together on the pitch, I think Carlo Ancelotti might use Bale in a central position at Real Madrid. If you look at the sale of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal there is a space there, and Ronaldo will continue on the flanks with Angel Di Maria so Bale could slot in just behind Karim Benzema.
Last season we saw an evolution in Bale. Previously we had a very clear picture of what he was about: pace, hitting the byline and great crosses. But Andre Villas-Boas moved him to a central position and he developed his game – for which he deserves great credit.
Bale will be most productive in a central position. If he is in that area of the pitch, I think he could run riot, particularly given opposition defences will also have Di Maria and Ronaldo to look after. He has that ability to go past defenders and take them out of the game. I think this attribute means he could be devastating in a central role.
Madrid will be keen not to move Ronaldo given the huge number of goals he scores from that wide starting position, whereas if you put Bale on the left his potential goals tally is likely to decrease. To extract the maximum from both players, the solution is obvious. That way you maximise your goal return.
As well as delivering on the pitch, Bale has a challenge to settle into a new city and a new life. It’s all about being happy when you move abroad as a player. Madrid can help him settle by getting him a house in the right area and making sure his family are settled, but ultimately it comes down to whether Gareth can find happiness himself.
Getting off to a flying start will certainly be important. With the intense media glare in Spain, he will be scrutinised like he never has before. Just look at the fuss around his contribution for Wales this week.
He needs a goal in his first three games to head off any early criticism and start feeling comfortable.