Villarreal-Real Madrid: the day Spain met Bale

A goal from the Welshman, another from Cristiano and saves from Diego Lopez kept the final score at 2-2 in an intense match
gareth bale

 -   Gareth Bale

Real Madrid visit Villarreal again. The newly-crowned Europa League champions were still playing at El Madrigal when Gareth Bale visited their stadium that Saturday night on 14 September 2013.

The Welshman's signing was confirmed on 1 September 2013. Florentino Pérez practised his technique of attrition with Tottenham and took negotiations to the last day of the market. Real Madrid shelled out the 101 million euros to the frustration of Cristiano Ronaldo who was knocked off the ranking of the most expensive transfer. That same season Tottenham announced the arrival of Lamela and Eriksen who has returned to football with Brentford after overcoming his heart problem.

His first game would be the start of a bittersweet few years for the player in white. In that match, Ancelotti put Diego López in goal in the middle of the criticism for having the Galician goalkeeper for the league and relegating Casillas for the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Nacho, Ramos, Pepe and Carvajal were in defence; Khedira, Isco and Modric in midfield and up front, Morata, Di María and Cristiano Ronaldo.

AP/PAUL WHITE  -   El jugador del Real Madrid Gareth Bale compite por el balón con el vallisoletano Pedro Porro durante el partido de la Liga española entre el Real Madrid y el Valladolid en el Santiago Bernabéu
AP/PAUL WHITE - Real Madrid's Gareth Bale during a La Liga match between Real Madrid and Valladolid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid were playing thick and with a lot of lapses in defence. Marcelino's Villarreal were quick to pounce on one of those mistakes and Cani put the first goal on the scoreboard in the 20th minute.

Bale was waiting on the bench for his moment, but he had to come on because of Di Maria's injury. Diego López held off the yellow siege as best he could until Carvajal's run down the right flank led to the goal. The Welshman crossed for the Welshman to fire home in the 38th minute to send the game into the break at 1-1.

Benzema and Illarramendi had to substitute Morata and Khedira. In the 64th minute Cristiano made it 1-2 after Benzema's shot was poorly cleared by Asenjo. Diego López was still bailing out the water to prevent the Whites from sinking, but he could do nothing after a Cani shot that the defence failed to clear and the ball ended up in the goal after Giovani's shot.

AFP/ JAVIER SORIANO - El centrocampista argentino del Barcelona Javier Mascherano (R) compite con el delantero galés del Real Madrid Gareth Bale durante la Copa del Rey de 2014
AFP/ JAVIER SORIANO - Gareth Bale during a match against Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey.

An intense match in which Villarreal could have taken more, but in front of them was the embryo of the future European champion. That Real Madrid, in which Casemiro was a regular on the bench, also had Llorente and Jesé in its ranks.

Bale finished that season as European champion. He played 44 games and scored 22 goals. That first season was that of the great player who came from England as a right-back with an eye for goal who was short of 100 metres.

The 2014 Copa del Rey final in Valencia was another of his great moments. A historic run that left Bartra limping to bring the cup back to the white trophy cabinet. Weeks later, he culminated that historic entry into white sporting glories with the goal that would put Real Madrid ahead in the Champions League final against Atlético de Madrid. First Ramos in the 93rd minute and then Bale.

Nine years later, Bale has 29 injuries and has missed more than 100 games in Los Blancos. To this must be added his strange idyll with the fans and the press. His love of golf and his love of Wales led him to raise that banner that read "Wales, Golf, Madrid. In that order" in reference to his personal and sporting preferences.

Now Bale returns to the Estadio de La Cerámica with little chance of playing. His contract has been reviewed on occasion, but Real Madrid are clear that 31 June will be the last day they keep the highest paid player in their squad since Ronaldo left.