Gareth Bale will bring up the seventh anniversary of his then world-record switch from Tottenham to Real Madrid on Tuesday with his career in the Spanish capital at a low ebb.
Out of favour under head coach Zinedine Zidane, the Wales international lurked on the margins, barely visible as Los Blancos claimed a sweet LaLiga title triumph at Barcelona ‘s expense last season.
The 31-year-old is effectively a luxury sports car consigned to the garage, save for frequent trips out with the golf clubs on the back seat.
Bale has won four Champions Leagues at Madrid, scoring crucially in two of the finals – deeds befitting of a club great.
That is a distinction now set to pass him by, even if the numbers below show it was once his trajectory.
AMONG LALIGA’S ELITE
Since Bale’s debut for Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid, where he netted a first-half equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal, he has scored 80 goals in Spain’s top flight.
Over his period in the division, that places him eighth overall, behind Lionel Messi (275), Cristiano Ronaldo (199), Luis Suarez (147), Antoine Griezmann (129), Karim Benzema (125), Iago Aspas (103) and Aritz Aduriz (96).
Unquestionably, that amounts to being in elite company, while his 40 assists are also not too shabby, putting him joint 13th overall.
Once again, Messi is out in front to a ludicrous degree with 112 assists. His Barcelona team-mate – for now at least – Luis Suarez (69) is next and Atletico Madrid’s Koke (67) is third.
Benzema and Ronaldo, his colleagues in the once-fabled BBC forward line are the only Madrid players to lay on more goals than Bale, with 66 and 57 assists respectively.
HITTING THE HEIGHTS
Zidane’s arrival for his first stint in charge of Madrid can now be viewed as the beginning of the end for Bale, but when they won the first of three consecutive Champions Leagues in 2015-16, he was in prime form.
In that campaign, which ended with the forward inspiring his country on a surprise run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Bale scored 19 LaLiga goals and provided 10 assists.
That made 2015-16 his most prolific goalscoring season in the top flight, with 16 in 2017-18 and 15 in his debut season, when he made 12 assists, coming next.
He scored his goals at a shade over one every 91 minutes – the only time in his Madrid career he dipped under 112 minutes per goal.
FALLING WORK RATE AND INURY WOES
Fitness issues have dogged Bale throughout his time in LaLiga, with calf complaints a regrettable recurring theme.
Since his opening two seasons at the club, he has failed to play more than 2,000 minutes in a campaign, having racked up 2,069 and 2,581 in 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively.
Perhaps as a result of concerns over how well his body might hold up, there is also evidence of a decline in Bale’s propensity to do the dirty work,
In his lone season under Ancelotti, he made 85 recoveries in league games and has not topped 50 since 2015-16.
In that prolific 2015-16 season, Gareth Bale played 1,738 minutes compared to 1,792 in 2018-19 However, his recoveries from those two years dipped from 52 to 36. Interceptions dropped from 20 to 11 and instances of him winning possession in the final third halved from 10 to five.
On the latter metric, Gareth Bale has never topped the 14 times he won the ball deep into opposition territory in 2013-14 – doing so only once in an injury interrupted 2016-17.
CAST ASIDE BY ZIDANE
Injuries are, of course, not the main reason for Bale’s dwindling involvement in 2019-20. His 1,091 minutes in LaLiga are comfortably his lowest since arriving at Madrid.
He last started back-to-back games on February 16. To underline what could have been accomplished between that date and now, Messi managed 11 goals and nine assists – both divisional bests – in the timeframe.
Madrid team-mates Benzema and Sergio Ramos scored eight and six times respectively to stand as heroes of a memorable title triumph before masked spectator Gareth Bale.
As what remains of his prime is whittled away inside a gilded Santiago Bernabeu cage, it all seems so wasteful and unnecessary for all parties. Particularly for a player who touched greatness for significant parts of the previous decade.