When Rafa Benítez was appointed as Real Madrid coach, rumours suggested that Bale would play an important role under the Spaniard.
In Los Blancos’ first preseason game against Roma, the former Napoli boss deployed Bale behind Jesé Rodríguez, and the Welshman impressed. Indeed, it seemed that Bale had been missing freedom to roam around the final third.
While Real Madrid continued to produce some impressive and disciplined football, Bale’s performances in the center waned. In yesterday’s win over Tottenham, the Welsh wizard managed to score an impressive solo goal in his central attacking position, but was outshone by his contenders for the No. 10 position.
Madrid’s first goal came as a result of a remarkable cross by Isco which was met by the Colombian James Rodríguez, who headed Madrid into the lead. Still, all debate continues to be centered on whether Isco should start over James on the wing or vice-versa, when in reality the two youngsters should be primary candidates for the playmaking position.
Nevertheless, Bale was clear regarding his preferred position after the victory against his former club, stating, "It’s my best position. When I played for Tottenham, I felt I played my best football there and when I play for Wales, I play there and play my best football. For me, that’s my position and it’s where I want to play."
Jonathan Barnett, Bale’s agent, also recently weighed in on the debate regarding his client’s role within the team. "I think he had a conversation with Benítez and between them they will find a position that suits them both. One that suits the team and the one suits Gareth. I think that's the most important thing. It has to suit both."
So far, it seems that Benítez’s decision to play Bale in a central attacking position is one which is not suiting neither the team nor the Welshman himself. Bale’s goal against Tottenham was in and of itself an example of his virtues: an ability to intercept passes and pace – two skills which are better fit for a winger.
Certainly, all the evidence suggests that Benítez does not want Bale to be isolated on the right wing. The most prudent decision, however, seems to be deploying Bale on the left, James on the right, Ronaldo as the striker and Isco as the playmaker.
Such a lineup also seems to be preferred by the fans. In a poll done by Spanish newspaper AS, only 7.2% voted for Bale as a playmaker, with Isco receiving 54.9% of the votes.
Bale is a word class player and would surely settle into the No. 10 position if given time. However, given the likes of Isco, James and even Modrić, Bale is surely more suited to a role on the left flank. Benítez seems to be persistent with his new experiment. However, the Spaniard must be wary and avoid benching either one of two fan favourites simply to accommodate Bale in a position which he has not yet earned.