Gareth Bale believes Real Madrid can be even better this season in their quest for a 14th European crown despite the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bale has shone in the spotlight since Ronaldo’s departure for Juventus, scoring in all of Real’s opening three La Liga wins and providing the equaliser for Isco in a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Bale told British newspaper the Daily Mail:
“Obviously it’s going to be a little different from having such a big player there
“It’s maybe a bit more relaxed, yes. I suppose there is more of a team, more working as one unit rather than one player.”
Fired by his anger at being left out of the starting line-up in Zinedine Zidane’s last match in charge of Madrid, Bale came off the bench to score twice in last season’s Champions League final to beat Liverpool 3-1.
However, it is Ronaldo’s goals that have led Real to so much success on the continent in recent times. The Portuguese has been the competition’s top scorer for the past six seasons.
After three games without scoring for his new club, Ronaldo broke his duct for Juventus by scoring two against Sassauolo.
But ahead of their Champions League opener against last season’s semi-finalists Roma on Wednesday, Bale insists Real can be even better this season without Ronaldo:
“We can be even better again,” he added. “Another start and another challenge. We’re ready for it.”
The strained relationship between Bale and Zidane may have led to the Welshman looking for an exit this summer had the French coach not decided to bow out after winning a third straight Champions League in just two and a half years in charge.
Bale avoided the question of whether new boss Julen Lopetegui is a better manager than the French great, but accepts Lopetegui’s command of English has made it easier to communicate.
“Obviously it helps,” said Bale. “In Spanish I can talk but maybe not go into that amount of detail with them that I would need to.”
The former Spain manager has added more control and more passing, which can easily mix with their usual and lethal counter-attacking game.
That style of play suits striker Karim Benzema, who was often overshadowed by Ronaldo on the big occasions. The Frenchman has already scored five goals in as many appearances this season.
And Gareth Bale is now able to fill in a lot of the spaces previously occupied by Ronaldo and may get more chances to score from set pieces, giving him an overall bigger role for the Spanish giants.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits by Joseph O’Brien)