If this is to be the end of Gareth Bale and Real Madrid’s relationship, then their last kiss will be something sweet to remember him by.
The Welshman’s stunning overhead kick against Liverpool may well be the greatest goal ever scored in a Champions League final.
It’s fitting that his biggest rival for the accolade is the man who may have the final say about his departure, Zinedine Zidane.
Following the final whistle in Kiev, Bale was asked what Zidane had said about his spectacular strike.
The 28-year-old replied that his manager had not yet said anything about it, they hadn’t even talked.
Normally, a manager thanks his match-winner mere seconds after the final whistle.
But at this stage Zizou and Bale’s relationship is seemingly beyond repair.
The cause of the friction is understandable.
Bale believes he should be playing as much as possible.
Zidane is hesitant to do so, partly because of his faith in Karim Benzema, and partly because of Bale’s injury record.
The former Spurs forward was honest when asked about his future following his Champions League final heroics.
“I need to be playing more,” he said.
“We’ll sit down with my agent in the summer.”
If we have seen the last of Bale for Los Blancos, how will his spell be remembered by the fans?
Certainly, his last hurrah would have swayed more than a few doubters.
And as one the core group of players to have featured prominently in Real’s four most recent Champions League victories, he will have admirers for life in Madrid.
His numbers are impressive too.
88 goals for the club have come from 189 games, an excellent strike rate, particularly for a player who does not operate as an out-and-out centre-forward.
Bale’s pace, athleticism and powerful striking have produced many memorable moments.
His 85th-minute winner against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final was his greatest moment before Kiev.
After knocking the ball past Marc Bartra down the left wing, he sprinted off the pitch and back on again to beat the defender for pace, before a smart finish from acute angle.
The sheer speed was devastating and like nothing we’ve seen in a game of such magnitude.
There is much to admire about Bale’s Real career.
And yet, there are a few caveats.
Hamstring and calf injuries have robbed us of months’ worth of prime Bale.
Patience wears thin quickly at the Bernabeu and his layoffs meant much of the fanbase failed to invest fully in his talent — a tragic shame.
A fully fit Bale is an elite, world-class player of rare ability.
However, sightings of this supreme athlete have been too scarce in recent years.
His greatest crime, however, is that is he not Cristiano Ronaldo.
Many viewed Bale as the long-term replacement for the Portuguese phenomenon.
The more optimistic fans hoped he would inherit the Ballon d’Or favourite tag from his team-mate in a glorious transition period after a few seasons of terrorising defences together.
While Bale may be one the best players of his generation, there will only ever be one Cristiano Ronaldo.
Having similar attributes and strenghts to one of the best ever is great; until you get measured against them.
Too many have judged him harshly for not reaching Ronaldo’s level — something every other player in history not named Lionel Messi is also guilty of.
Ronaldo’s shadow looms large but the shade is not so cold that outrageous talent can’t bloom.
If you judge Bale as his own man, rather than a diet Ronaldo, he must surely be considered a success?
Dream Team World Cup has landed!
The greatest show on Earth just got that bit more exciting.
That’s because the Dream Team World Cup game is coming ahead of this summer’s tournament.
Dream Team World Cup
- Completely free to enter
- £50m budget and 20 transfers throughout the tournament
- £175k total prizepot (for UK players only)
- PRE-REGISTER FOR DREAM TEAM WORLD CUP NOW
The game officially launches on June 1 – but you can pre-register for the game now.
If you’re an existing Dream Team customer the World Cup game now appears in the app or you can enter here, but if you’re not follow these simple steps:
- Download the Dream Team app
- Create an account
- Click on the World Cup banner below in the app and follow the pre-registration instructions
From Russia with a whole lot of love.