There are few sweeter things in life than appearing at exactly the right place and right time. Gareth Bale knows plenty about that, and he is often the man to make a difference when 90 minutes stand between Real Madrid and a title.
Since arriving at the Bernabéu, Bale has played in seven finals and left his mark. The 28-year-old has scored three goals and provided a further three assists in those matches.
Off to a flying start in Madrid
It would have been difficult for Bale to have a better debut season in Spain if he had sat down planned it out.
He justified the €101 million transfer fee – a world-record at the time – with a rampaging run past Marc Bartra in the Copa del Rey final, and a headed goal in the Champions League final that helped Madrid to la Décima.
Majestic in Milan
He returned in the Spanish Super Cup with an assist for Cristiano Ronaldo to score the opening goal. And Bale didn’t ease off the pace in the closing stages of 2014… With a pass to Isco and a helping hand from the San Lorenzo goalkeeper, he secured the Club World Cup.
Bale did not manage to match his first Champions League final performance when Madrid met Atlético in Lisbon in 2015, but he played a significant role in putting smiles on Madridista faces when Los Blancos overcame their city rivals once again in Milan. He glanced Toni Kroos’ delivery on to Sergio Ramos to score Madrid’s goal, before then slotting home in the penalty shoot-out.
From Cardiff to Skopje
Injury woes meant Bale’s role in Cardiff – his home city – was essentially limited to appearing in the victory photos. Yet he had a decisive role in the subsequent European Super Cup final against Manchester United in Skopje, providing the pass that led to Isco’s goal.
Three goals, three assists, plus the penalty in Milan show that Gareth Bale is capable of lifting his performance when it matters. As he continues his rehabilitation from injury, he will be an important option for Zinedine Zidane in the Club World Cup final against Gremio.