Gareth Bale missed more than half a dozen chances as Real Madrid crashed out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night after a 1-1 draw against Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu. Juve, the Italian champion now for four years running, qualified for the June 6 final in Berlin by virtue of the 3-2 aggregate score between the clubs over two games.
Madrid, which dominated possession throughout the game, took an early lead through a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. Having assumed the advantage on away goals, Carlo Ancelotti’s men looked quite comfortable until former Real striker Alvaro Morata snatched an equalizer in the 57th-minute. Unsurprisingly, it came from a set-piece. After that, Real continued to create chances, with Bale missing twice from point-blank range.
"We lost it in the first game," Ancelotti said after the game. "We were not lucky -- we had good control but were not lucky to score another goal. We had a lot of opportunities to score the second. Bale played better [than the first leg]. He worked hard. We did our best but it was not enough to reach the final.”
Off The Post has always enjoyed Carlo Ancelotti’s press conferences because he is a very deliberate speaker. He says exactly what he means, and he always tries to remain positive while sounding level-headed about it.
Naturally, the Italian was asked to comment on the performance of the world’s most expensive player. Notice how he responds with, “Bale played better. He worked hard.” If you remember how uninvolved Bale was in the first-leg (a 2-1 win for Juventus), you’ll note that he’s starting from a very low bar in terms of performance. He absolutely played better than first-leg and in a more positive manner, but that’s not the same thing as playing well. He also absolutely tried his hardest to get that second goal -- all of which is to say that Ancelotti is being accurate and positive in his assessment.
But, again, it’s not the same thing as saying Bale played well.
So, what did the world’s most expensive player think of his own performance.
"There have been some ups and downs but personally I think I've played well," the former Tottenham Hotspur man told Sky Sports, adding later: "I was unlucky not to grab one. As long as I keep trying, usually one goes in. Unfortunately it didn't happen tonight and you move on."
Really, Gareth? What do you think of your overall performance this season?
"I've maybe not scored as many important chances as I'd like but my general play has been good. My finishing is not as good and that's something to work on for next year. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger and I'll learn from this season and take it on."
Unfortunately for Gareth, soccer is a stats-driven sport, especially for those who play in forward positions. On Wednesday, Bale took seven shots at goal, and only one of them -- a thunderbolt from distance in the first half -- was on target. Worse, at least two, maybe three, of his chances should have been put away. If Ronaldo had had the same number of chances (he had three, including the penalty he converted), he would have taken at least one, if not two of them.
Which brings us to our point for today: is impossible for a forward, whose primary job to is to score or create goals, to have had the chances Bale had against Juventus and be told afterward that he played well.
You can tell the poor guy is trying to stay positive in his post-game press conferences. To be fair, it’s all he can do when Real Madrid’s fans and the Spanish press are all over him for his poor sophomore season.
But they have a point, too. Sure, the Welshman doesn’t see as much of the ball or get as many chances as Cristiano, but nor should he, as the three-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored or made 70 goals this season compared to 30 for Bale in about 50 matches in all competitions for each player.
By the way, 30 contributions in 50 matches is not a bad tally at all -- it’s just not enough for the world’s most expensive player. And when you miss a boatload of chances in a huge game like the UCL semifinal, you can see why Madrid’s demanding fans are on his case.
Of course, some players get stronger with criticism, while others absolutely do not. To OTP, it seems like Bale is in the latter camp, which means Real Madrid and Spain might not be the best destination for him after all.
Look for the talented Welshman to try and start over next season, most likely at Manchester United.