Surgical left foot. Frightening pace. World-class pedigree. Injury-prone. Unloved at the Bernabeu.
For 2019’s Gareth Bale read 2009’s Arjen Robben.
Ten years ago Robben was coming off the back of a season in which he’d made 29 appearances for Real Madrid.
The campaign was a disappointment for all involved.
Madrid lifted the Spanish Super Cup but finished a distant nine points off Barcelona in La Liga and crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 after a 5-0 aggregate thumping by Liverpool.
Florentino Perez had seen enough and set in motion the Galactico 2.0 era.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso all arrived at the Bernabeu, leaving Robben on the scrapheap.
Fast forward a decade and Bale also finds himself coming off the back of a dismal 29-game league season.
While Ronaldo’s 2009 arrival was the precursor to Robben’s exit, his move to Juventus last summer was expected to rip open the curtains and free Bale from the biggest shadow in football.
In reality Bale looks more lost than ever.
Zinedine Zidane used the aftermath of Madrid’s pre-season defeat against Bayern Munich to say: “We hope he leaves soon. It would be best for everyone.”
The Frenchman displayed more subtlety when planting his forehead on Marco Materazzi’s chest, leaving Bale trawling Skyscanner for the first flight out of Madrid.
But there’s no need for despair, despite the brutality of Zidane’s cold shoulder.
While the bookies have Bale moving to China to see out the rest of his career collecting a reported £1million-a-week wage, the Welshman should instead look to Robben for inspiration as to how to get his career back on track.
Ten years ago it was the Dutchman who found his left foot no longer fitting in Madrid.
Robben’s summer move to Bayern Munich was seen as something of a gamble, given the Germans had finished as runners-up to Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga and failed to progress further than the quarter-finals in the Champions League and DFB Pokal.
A decade later the 35-year-old is enjoying his first summer of retirement having won eight Bundesliga titles, ten domestic cup competitions, the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup.
There are clearly differences between Robben’s situation back in 2009 and Bale’s current circumstances.
Robben was 25 when he left Spain, whereas Bale turned 30 earlier this month. Bale’s wages also complicate matters as the Welshman would have to take a pay cut to join Bayern.
You wouldn’t begrudge Bale for seeing out his contract in Spain, given how he’s been treated by Madrid, or picking up £1million-a-week in China. Football is a short career, after all.
But Bale should be the leading light in an elite league at his age. There’s a real risk of him becoming a golf-loving caricature rather than being respected for the outstanding footballer he is.
Robben proved that you can still be influential both domestically and in Europe well into your thirties after being ‘discarded’ by Madrid.
If Bayern is an option, Bale should jump at it.
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