Pitchside

Why Gareth Bale, not Cristiano Ronaldo, could be Real Madrid’s hero in Lisbon

Pitchside

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The 2014 Champions League final is on Saturday. It's an all-Spanish affair - all-Madrid, even - between Real and Atletico and will be staged in Lisbon. And yet, the deciding factor could very well come from the humble nation of Wales.

Gareth Bale's huge-money move from Tottenham to the Bernabeu earned the talented former Southampton man an unsurprising amount of scrutiny for his first few months in Spain. Such a price tag, of course, means anything short of scoring a hat-trick in each of your first five games has some wondering if you were worth the money.

Nonetheless, once the wave of hype settled down, Bale set about quietly proving exactly why he was a shrewd investment - one who could provide the ultimate repayment to Los Galacticos at the weekend if he is the one who finally delivers La Decima.

He's already taken centre-stage in such a situation once this season: his winning goal in the Clasico Copa del Rey final against Barcelona made quite the impression in April.

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And football statisticians extraordinaire Opta have presented a comprehensive rundown of just how important a player Bale has been to Real in his debut season, which lends credence to the theory that he stands just as much chance of being the hero of the final as hometown boy Cristiano Ronaldo.

Below you can find Bale's stats compared to some of the other players set to take to the pitch on Saturday in the Champions League (click to see a full-size version).

Ronaldo is of course the top scorer having netted a record 16 times, but with Diego Costa likely missing in Lisbon due to injury, Bale will actually be the joint second top scorer on display, along with Karim Benzema, thanks to his five goals.

Moreover, Bale has collected four assists, which is only bettered by team-mate Angel Di Maria in the players chosen for comparison by Opta below.

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click for full-size version

Here's the Liga stats comparison. Note that Bale is the only player selected who has reached double figures for both goals and assists - no mean feat.

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And finally, a combined tally:

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It now seems rather laughable that, after an unconvincing start, Bale was labelled as a flop in some quarters following his £86m summer transfer.

As the stats above prove, Bale has both scored and created in impressive volume in his first year in Spanish football and who would bet against him doing the same on the biggest club stage of all?

Brits at the Bernabeu - why Bale is a cut above at Real Madrid

  • Bale has scored 15 league goals this season. Michael Owen managed 13 in his single season with Real Madrid.
  • Bale has also assisted 12 goals this season. It took David Beckham two seasons to reach 12 league assists (eight in 2003/04, four in 2004/05).

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