Gareth Bale’s lack of involvement in club football has rarely prevented him from excelling at the international level, and Wales fans will be desperately hoping that this trend continues at the World Cup.
The Welsh star, 33, has been instrumental in his nation’s revival over the past ten years, helping it qualify for two European Championships and now making its first World Cup appearance since 1958.
Bale struggled to establish himself as one of Real Madrid’s “Galacticos,” and was progressively relegated to the background as an unappreciated and underutilized squad player.
Therefore, it appeared like a match made in heaven when Los Angeles FC swooped for the five-time Champions League champion in June.
In order to give them momentum and experience as they pursued their first Major League Soccer championship, Los Angeles would receive a proven match-winner.
Bale would have the opportunity to play regular football in the interim, sharpening his match sharpness in preparation for a peak performance in Qatar.
To say that it hasn’t exactly turned out that way would be an understatement.
Los Angeles has advanced well to the MLS Cup final championship game on Saturday, but they have mostly done so without Bale.
Bale has made 10 replacement appearances since moving to the US in July, but only two of those appearances have seen him start the game.
Due to a leg injury, Bale was unable to participate in LAFC’s victories over the Los Angeles Galaxy and Austin in the postseason.
The Welsh captain will have not played a competitive game in nearly two months when he lines up against the United States in Wales’ Group B opening on November 21 if, as appears likely, Bale does not get playing time against the Philadelphia Union in this weekend’s MLS Cup.
The big-game mindset
Rob Page, the manager of Wales, maintains he is unconcerned by Bale’s most recent absence from the field.
In a recent interview, Page assured Sky Sports that “He’s well.” He’s fine. He’s at the age now when he needs to regulate his body. I’ve spoken with him, and he’s okay.
He can use that experience to better understand his body and how to position himself for us.
The administration of Los Angeles FC is likewise firmly behind the Welshman, albeit admitting that a few “hiccups” have stopped him from having a full-throated MLS debut.
According to John Thorrington, general manager of Los Angeles, “We looked at Gareth as a guy who we thought we could bring up to speed, healthy, and contributing – and I do want to highlight that he did.”
“When he was able to play, he helped us win a number of games. It’s just sad that his physical limitations prevented him from taking on a more significant role.
“We’ve seen what he can accomplish in this league when he is healthy and able to contribute, and we’re confident that will continue,” the statement continued. “He works really hard, he is a great professional.
Bale, on the other hand, can cite a long list of instances where his ability to rise to the big stage has triumphed over his alleged lack of match acuity.
That was never more apparent than in March, when Wales faced Austria in a crucial Football World Cup qualification match.
Bale has made just one start and two brief substitute appearances for Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid club since the beginning of the year prior to that game.
However, on March 24, when Wales’ chances of making the World Cup were at stake against Austria, Bale once again came through, scoring two outstanding goals in a 2-1 victory before leaving the field to a standing ovation.
Despite playing very little in the lead-up due to a back issue, Bale was equally crucial in assisting Wales secure their first World Cup qualifying in 64 years during June’s play-off final victory against Ukraine.
Bale admitted after that game that it was challenging.
Due to back spasms, I haven’t played much football during the past three or four weeks, but the most crucial thing was to survive.
“I commit fully. I had nothing left to give.