Gareth Bale’s celebration after scoring his first goal in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Final was more than regular people would imagine. The weight on his shoulders had just gotten heavier as Zinedine Zidane left him on the bench for the start of the match and Bale made it clear how much that bothered him.
Gareth Bale’s Celebration of Relief
Gareth Bale has been suffering from injuries his entire career and that can be very hard on any player. A player’s mental stability is just as important as his physical fortitude. When players are forced to stay away from the pitch for a long period of time, their confidence takes a huge hit. With the former Tottenham player, it was not different.
Ever since his Southampton days, Bale was forced to deal with physical problems. At that time, the pressure was nothing like what he experiences today in Madrid, but for a young player, it was more than enough.
At Spurs, a much bigger club, Bale had to see his teammates win a trophy without him when he spent eight months recovering from a foot injury. Pressure on.
Now, at Madrid, Bale hasn’t gone a single season without injury issues. Plus, the pressure at the Bernabeu is greater than anywhere else.
Even after scoring against Atlético Madrid in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League Final and after putting up a spectacular performance against Juventus in the semi-finals in the following season, the pressure didn’t get any lighter.
The two following seasons, 2015/16 and 2016/17, were the worst in Bale’s time at Madrid. Constantly sidelined by injuries, he started to lose the manager’s trust and his place in the starting XI.
The critics and fans would lash out at him every chance they got. Every British newspaper would write about his absence and his low popularity at the Spanish capital, hoping he would go back to England.
That was the darkest moment. Not being able to play meant he wasn’t going to be able to respond.
In 2016/17, Real Madrid managed to clinch the Champions League once again, this time played in Cardiff, Bale’s hometown. He was still recovering from a calf injury and wasn’t 100% fit, as he admitted at the time.
However, it was the opportunity of a lifetime, to win one of the greatest titles in front of his whole country.
Unfortunately, he only entered the game with minutes left on the clock and saw youngster Marco Asensio capture the spotlight as Madrid beat Juventus 4-1. That appeared to be Bale’s lowest point. He had become a mere substitute in a team full of superstars.
The pressure at that point should have been unbearable.
2017: Another Injury
The start of the 2017/18 was no better. Gareth Bale kept seeing his teammates performing well as he was still recovering his form yet from another injury. From September to December 2017, he missed 14 games.
In addition, his injury ruled him out of one of the most important games in his country’s history, as Wales played the Republic of Ireland for a place in the playoffs of World Cup qualification. Wales ended up losing that game and thus lost any chance of qualifying for the 2018 edition of the competition.
At this time into the season, Isco had already established himself in the starting XI and Asensio and Lucas Vázquez were both ahead of Bale in the pecking order.
After four years in Madrid, the Welshman went from the most expensive player in the world to an £85 million substitute.
Despite everyone’s lack of faith in him, Bale never stopped working. In 2018, he overcame all the negativity and all his physical problems, to recover his form and confidence.
Zidane was still concerned about him and, at first, kept his playing time at a minimum. Gareth then started to perform. Game after game, goal after goal. In 2018 alone, Gareth scored 17 goals in 26 games.
That form, apparently, wasn’t enough to convince Zidane he should start the Champions League Final against Liverpool. By playing Isco instead, Zidane made it clear that, despite Bale’s recent deeds, the Frenchman didn’t trust him enough.
The final went on and at the 61st minute, with the game tied 1-1, Bale was ready to go in. The TV camera captured him rubbing his shoulder as if he was getting prepared to enter the pitch carrying all that weight, the pressure, the £85 million price tag.
Three minutes later he scored the most amazing goal of any Champions League Final. An overhead kick that made the Olympic Stadium in Kiev erupt, just as he would in the following seconds.
Bale’s moment. Bale’s goal. Gareth Bale’s celebration.
The strike made all the pressure go away. Nothing else mattered at that point. He had done it.
The celebration was the sincerest expression from his inner self. All the pressure, all the dissatisfaction, all the anger. It was all released.
Bale still scored Madrid’s third goal, just to make the night even more special, and secured his fourth Champions League title and Madrid’s third in a row.
The sixth most expensive player of all time had just made history. Gareth Bale’s celebration, and goal, will echo through eternity.