THIS time last year I was writing about Gareth Bale and the fact that he was, by some distance, the player every big club in England and throughout Europe should be trying to sign. Well, Real Madrid got their man, at a world record £80-odd million – and I reckon they’ll be thinking they got their moneysworth. Bale may not have had the best of games in the Champions League final, along with team-mate and world No 1 Cristiano Ronaldo, but he popped up to head the crucial goal that put real 2-1 up against City rivals Atletico, having scored the winner in the Spanish Cup final two weeks earlier.
The Welshman has hit 22 goals in his debut season, a season that was injury interrupted in the first month or so, and, by playing his part in winning Real their 10th European Cup, he has already cemented his name into the annals of that great club.
It struck me that Atletico, with their chasing, harrying and swarming tactics, are the Chelsea of La Liga, while Real, with magicians like Di Maria, Ronaldo and Bale, are the Manchester City. You have to have fit, strong, athletic payers to subdue talents like Ronaldo and Bale and that’s just what Atletico possess. There is no denying that Real deserved to win, although 4-1 was a flattering scoreline.
While Real are the team of galacticos, Atletico are a team in the true sense of the word, where everyone pulls together and there are no superstars. It is for that reason that I would caution clubs who are contemplating spending huge sums on signing some of the Atletico players. I say that because, when players are taken out of such a totally unified set-up they cam sometimes find it difficult to adapt to different circumstances.
I was disappointed in Atletico coach Diego Simeone’s antics, rushing on to the pitch to confront Real’s Raphael Varane, who had kicked the ball in his direction after the fourth goal. Simeone has done a wonderful job with Atletico and I’m sure some of the biggest clubs in Europe will now be looking at him. However, the Argentinian displayed a dubious side to his character, an echo, perhaps, of his over-the-top reaction to that infamous David Beckham flick at the World Cup in 1998, which resulted in Beckham being sent off and for which Simeone has since expressed some regret.