Real Madrid after Ronaldo – Can Bale step up?

Real Madrid cashed in on Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, and without making any household name signings, could be looking for Gareth Bale to step up in the Portuguese superstar’s place.

Incoming manager Julen Lopetegui has bought back striker Mariano from Lyon, whilst teenage Brazilian Vinícius Júnior has finally arrived from Flamengo after the club agreed a deal two years ago when the left forward was only 16.

Juventus agreed a €112 million deal with Real Madrid for the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo this past summer. The 33-year-old was a key part of the side that have won four of the past five Champions League titles.

The manager is still embedding his new attackers, with Mariano only making three substitute appearances in La Liga, totalling 117 minutes to date, whilst Vinícius’ two cameo appearances have combined for only 12 minutes of action so far this season.

Ronaldo’s presence has certainly been missing in recent weeks as the Spanish giants have failed to score a single goal in their past four matches in all competitions. A run that will be almost a month long by the time they return from the international break to host Levante on Saturday 20 October.

Karim Benzema leads the way with four goals in eight league matches, whilst Gareth Bale is next on the list with three in seven. Fans will at least be grateful that he has managed to maintain his fitness so far this season after a battle for fitness during his first five years at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

The Welsh international was a big deal at Tottenham Hotspur, winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in both 2011 and 2013. The latter prompted Real Madrid to splash out a then world record €100 million (£85.3m) fee for the full-back turned winger.

Injuries have certainly hurt his career in the Spanish capital, only once playing more than 27 matches in a single La Liga campaign. However, his goals to games ratio has remained very good considering he’s been playing alongside Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Bale currently has 73 goals in 133 league matches for Real Madrid and a further 14 in 46 Champions League matches, where he has made a habit of scoring in the final. This does mean he has only featured in two-thirds of the possible La Liga games Real Madrid have played since his move from England.

It’s unlikely that the 29-year-old will be able to stand up to Ronaldo’s records, having never scored more than 19 La Liga goals in any of his previous five campaigns, compared to Ronaldo never scoring fewer than 25 in his nine seasons.

Captain Sergio Ramos is the only other player to have netted more than once for Real Madrid in the Spanish top flight so far this campaign – twice. For them to be successful you have to imagine it’s a team game, and so far they’re not doing a very good job at it.

Real Madrid are as far back as 4.3 to win this season’s La Liga according to today’s football odds on Betfair, whilst Barcelona are the 1.69 favourites, despite an inconsistent start of their own to the new season.

The 12 goals in eight La Liga matches so far for Lopetegui’s side gives them an average of just 1.5 goals per game – significantly fewer than any season when Ronaldo was at the club.

However, it’s certainly an opportunity for Bale to shine in the spotlight now that Ronaldo has headed off to Italy. If the winger can find some consistent form and goalscoring then he could help force Real Madrid into a title race, that so far, mainly believe is unlikely to happen.

So far it’s not happened for the former Tottenham man, as his goals have only been the second in a 2-0 win over Getafe, the fourth in a 4-1 win at Girona and the opener in the 4-1 thrashing of Leganés.

Failure to help his side beat the likes of Athletic Bilbao, CSKA Moscow and Alavés in particular hasn’t impressed the fans. And with Isco pushing hard for a place in the starting lineup, as many believe he deserves, only adds pressure on the manager to drop Bale if he doesn’t perform. Real Madrid also have the likes of Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos and Lucas Vázquez on their books, as well as teenager Vinícius Júnior breaking through.

It’s early days for the new manager but the signs aren’t looking so promising. Real Madrid have failed to break down Sevilla, Atlético Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Alavés in their latest fixtures, and they have El Clasico to look forward to at the end of the month!