Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Bale offers intriguing options
Gareth BALE and Cristiano Ronaldo first crossed paths in December 2008 when Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United played to a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane.
Over the next few months Ronaldo, who had won the Champions League with United the previous spring, would claim the Ballon d'Or and establish a transfer record upon moving to Real Madrid.
Bale, meanwhile, would continue experiencing the growing pains of a young, awkward footballer.
An unused substitute that night in North London, he would make more than 20 Premier League appearances for Spurs before finally participating in a winning side, all the while morphing from a left-back to a winger.
How times change.
On Wednesday, Bale and Ronaldo met again -- this time in the car park outside Madrid's Valdebebas training complex.
Bale, having recently surpassed Ronaldo's transfer record with his Ç¨100 million switch to the Spanish capital, was compelled by the club to partake in a staged run-in with his new teammate -- a gesture designed for the cameras as much as anything else.
It was a summit of immaculate hair, Dolce & Gabbana and designer man-purses.
The Welshman fit right in.
How he fits into Carlo Ancelotti's squad is another matter altogether.
Although the manager has confirmed Bale will play some part in today's Primera Division contest away to Villarreal, he has divulged neither the position nor the time of the player's involvement.
Given the 24-year-old's lack of match-fitness after suffering a pre-season ankle injury, it's more than likely a cameo appearance midway through the second half will serve as his introduction to Spanish football.
But what everyone wants to know is, "Where?"
Accustomed to the left flank and also comfortable in a central position behind the striker, Bale's debut could well come on the right of the attack in place of Angel Di Maria. Ancelotti hinted at the idea in his Friday press conference, but the range of options Bale presents is intriguing.
Ronaldo operated on the right through much of his tenure at United, so there is the possibility Bale could work from the left while the Portugal captain swaps flanks.
Some time in the middle will also present itself over the course of the season, as with Mesut Ozil's departure Madrid have only Isco and, to some extent, Luka Modric available for the role. But with Isco having started the season in blistering form it's highly unlikely he'll be displaced from the first team anytime soon
Bale, for his part, admits he has spoken with Ancelotti about positional matters but, for now, is merely getting accustomed to his new surroundings.
After helping unveil Madrid's new, alternate uniform on Friday he took part in just his second training session with the squad -- and was promptly hacked in the leg by Ronaldo.
A reminder, perhaps, that Bale is still only a price-tag at the Bernabeu and will continue to be until his performances on the pitch match his preening off it.
But he has still come some way in less than four years. That substitutes' bench at White Hart lane seems ever so long ago.
- Ancelotti has confirmed goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who has yet to play a single minute of Primera division football this season, will get the start on Tuesday in the Madrid's Champions League opener away to Galatasaray.
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 C6
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