After a transfer saga that dragged on interminably throughout the summer, Gareth Bale is eager to finally take to the pitch with his new club Real Madrid. Having finally signed in the closing stages of the transfer window, Bale is now available to make his debut in the colors of Los Merengues when they travel to face Villarreal in La Liga on Saturday.
Whether because of a supposed injury or because of negotiations with Madrid over his transfer, Bale did very little training and even less playing during pre-season with former club Tottenham. His fitness is therefore well below that of the rest of Madrid’s squad. However, after being left out of Wales’s World Cup qualifier last week, he made an appearance off the bench in Tuesday’s defeat to Serbia on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old subsequently met and trained with his new teammates for the first time on Wednesday. And, while he is keen to play as soon as possible, he accepts the final decision rests with manager Carlo Ancelotti.
“I feel good. I have had two good sessions today,” he said, according to Marca. “Obviously I am a bit behind physically than everyone else but I am hopeful I can catch up as soon as possible. [Ancelotti] has spoken to me, and hopefully [I can] get a place in the team.
“I've spoken to Ancelotti, but what we talked about stays between us,” he added. “I'm just looking forward to getting on the pitch and wherever the manager puts me I'll be giving 100 percent. It may be the case that Madrid's style of play suits me, but I just have to get my head down and work hard in training. It's exciting times for the club because everyone wants to work at winning everything.”
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The encounter with newly promoted Villarreal will also represent Madrid’s first match since the sale of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal. Still, Ancelotti is hardly short of options in attacking areas. With that in mind, it may well be that the Italian is happy to have Bale make his debut off the substitute’s bench. Ronaldo, Isco and Angel di Maria all started in support of Karim Benzema in Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao last time out and the same formula could be used again.
Long term, there will be much interest in whether Ronaldo is pushed into a central striker role with Bale operating on the left. After reports emerged that the Portuguese was “angry” over the sale of Ozil, a player who played an important role in his extraordinary scoring record in recent seasons, Madrid have been eager to dampen any suggestion of animosity between the two most expensive players in history. When Bale arrived for his first training session, Ronaldo just so happened to be in the car park at the same time and a photographer also just happened to be there ready to snap the pair greeting with broad smiles on their faces.
"Cristiano made me feel welcome just like everybody else did, they made me feel settled straight away and I’m just looking forward to getting on the pitch and doing well," Bale said.
The immediate focus, though, will be on trying to secure victory on Saturday against a Villarreal side that have also started the season with three straight wins. After the weekend, Madrid head to Turkey to open their Champions League campaign against the side they defeated in last season’s quarterfinals, Galatasaray.