It was honours even – in more ways than one – as Gareth Bale scored a debut goal for Real Madrid in their 2-2 draw with newly promoted Villareal at El Madrigal in La Liga on Saturday night.
Never one to be outdone Cristiano Ronaldo also got on the scoresheet and trumped his new pal yesterday when he was handed a new five year deal which will keep him at the Bernabeau until 2018.
The build-up to the game started in the Spanish football press as early as Wednesday when pictures of the two most expensive players in the world smiling and shaking hands before Bale’s first training session with his new club made the front pages of As and Marca, the two pro-Madrid dailies.
The As editorial said it was “the image that all Madrid fans wanted to see” as this is the dream team united that will, they hope, emulate that of Brazilian Neymar and Lionel Messi at hated rivals Barcelona.
But there is very little in the Spanish football press that isn’t premeditated and the can bet your bottom euro that the smiles and handshake were meticulously stage managed to banish any suggestion that the two ‘Galacticos’ aren’t, or won’t remain, the best of mates.
Inside Wednesday’s paper four pages were devoted to Bale’s 33 minute cameo appearance for Wales in a world cup qualifier with Croatia in Cardiff which was his first competitive appearance for 114 days.
The Spanish football press simply love statistics and every move he made in just over half an hour on the pitch was analysed with meticulous precision from passes made, misplaced, shots on and off target through to tackles completed and missed.
Bale is living in a hotel while the club helps him set up home in the Spanish capital and the establishment’s name is quoted in the press just to ensure his privacy. Not.
Opinions in the press were divided as they reflected on Bale’s 61 minute appearance at El Madrigal, the home of Villareal, whose entire transfer-window signings totalled just 14 million euro but still managed to be the fourth-highest in La Liga such is the spending power of the ‘Big Two.’
The minnows, who hail from a town of just 40,000 people and are known as the ‘Yellow Submarine’ due to their colours, refused to be sunk by their more illustrious opponents as the headline in As seemed to concede: ‘Bale scores and Diego Lopez (Madrid goalkeeper) the saviour.’
The editorial stated: ‘Bale looks good, going on magnificent.’ but other scribes begged to differ, the more neutral El Pais contending that ‘He didn’t contribute much. He looked disorderly in defence but his goal was the touch of an opportunistic striker.’
The Welsh wizard refused to talk to the media as slipped past reporters in the mixed zone where journalists get their quotes, preferring to resort to Twitter to state: ‘I was proud to score on my debut and pleased to get the 60 minutes. Just disappointed not to get the result.’
At least the former Tottenham star has one thing in common with Ronaldo irrespective of how you regard the contrived public shows of affection. Bale can now say he averages a goal a game for Real Madrid as well!