Pitchside Europe

How does brilliant Bale stack up against magical Messi?

While it took some time for Gareth Bale to adjust to his new surroundings on the back of his record-breaking £85m move to Real Madrid, the Welshman has since taken to La Liga with ease.

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Bale’s average WhoScored.com rating (7.6) is currently bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo (8.15) and Isco (7.62) of every Madrid player as he displays the qualities that secured his move to the Bernabeu.

His input has stagnated of late, with just the one goal and two assists in his last nine ppearances in all competitions, but Bale has endeared himself to the fans having scored or assisted 15 times in La Liga this term. Granted, Ronaldo continues to overshadow the 24-year old, but that isn’t to say Bale hasn’t lived up to expectations in his short time in the Spanish capital.

In fact, some have gone as far as to say that the Wales international has performed to a level rivaling that of his Portuguese team-mate and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, but that simply isn’t the case. Messi is currently the highest-rated player in La Liga (8.25), despite missing a substantial chunk of the season through injury, yet he’s made one more league appearance than Bale.

Not only has Messi scored more league goals (nine) than Bale (eight), but a telling indicator is the number of WhoScored.com man of the match awards the former has won. Only Ronaldo (seven) has won more than Messi (five) in La Liga this term, reinforcing the notion that the exploits of his team-mate have outweighed Bale’s, with the Welshman having picked up just the two.

Only Yacine Brahimi (104) has completed more successful dribbles than Messi (71) in La Liga this season, while the latter’s figure dwarfs that of Bale (16). The duo may both boast statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of ‘dribbling’, but it’s the Barcelona star that is exhibiting this quality on a far more regular basis.

Even in terms of key passes, it’s Messi (2.1) who easily eclipses Bale (1.1) despite the latter registering more assists in Spain’s top tier this season (seven to six), though it’s the responsibility of the goalscorers to put away the chances presented to them. In that respect, when the pairing aim to create for their team-mates, again it’s Messi who showcases the strength of ‘key passes’ more consistently than his Welsh rival.

Of course, that isn’t to say Bale has flopped since his arrival in Spain, far from it in fact. Messi is widely regarded as the best player to have ever played the game, regardless of Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or win last month. Rather, it’s that he simply isn’t performing at the same level as Messi, which no one would have expected in his debut La Liga campaign.

After netting for the first time in the league in 2014 in Barcelona’s recent shock 3-2 defeat to Valencia, Messi is beginning to return to his best form. Following his return from injury in the 4-0 Copa Del Rey win over Getafe last month, the Argentine has scored (five) or assisted (five) 10 goals in all competitions in just seven appearances this calendar year.

The same can’t be said of Bale, who has perhaps underperformed by his high standards since the turn of the year. Nevertheless, his work rate and attitude mean that he’ll strive to reach the levels of Messi as Real Madrid look to usurp rivals Atlético at the summit of La Liga.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

By Ben McAleer @BenMcAleer1