Real Madrid are on top of the football world once again. A season that seemed so bleak for the Spanish giants turned on a dime with the appointment of Zinedine Zidane and the notable immediate affect he had on one player: Gareth Bale.
"He's come in and he's been very good for everybody. He's given us all confidence, that freedom to play."
Bale's kind words following Real Madrid's 11th European title paint a large picture and it's obvious that Zidane's leadership spurred on a team that appeared lifeless just a few short months ago. However, Zidane affected one player more than any other.
Since returning from injury in early March, the Welshman has been a heralded focal point in Real Madrid's attack, much thanks to Zidane. He's contributed in nearly any way possible to help his team to victory. Whether that's scoring goals, creating offensive opportunities or tracking back and stopping the opposition's counter-attacks, Bale's done it all.
Yesterday's Champions League final was no different.
The Welshman nearly put Real Madrid ahead minutes into the game after setting up Casemiro from point blank range. Unfortunately for the young Brazilian, Jan Oblak happened to be standing in the only spot to stop the shot.
Minutes in, it was obvious that Bale was the most dangerous player on the pitch for Real Madrid and in the 15th minute, he proved his worth. Bale eluded three potential defenders and met a simple free kick from roughly 45 yards out. The Welshman redirected the cross and pushed it further into the danger area. Sergio Ramos touched the ball home and began celebrations but it was Bale's flicked that caused problems for Atletico's defense.
Sergio Ramos scores in his 2nd straight #UCLfinal against Atletico to give Real Madrid the 1-0 lead. @HeinekenSoccer https://t.co/3fqIFRMIOv— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) May 28, 2016
As the game progressed, Atleti became more comfortable and equalized which ultimately sent the match to penalties. Once again, Bale showed his determination and despite experiencing cramping, he stepped up to the spot and converted arguably the most important penalty of his career.
An injured Gareth Bale, who could barely run, hit a penalty shot for #RealMadrid. That's championship grit #HalaMadrid— Paul Vieira (@paulvieira) May 28, 2016
Bale wore his heart on his sleeve during the most appropriate time and continues to show that he's getting better and better while wearing white. He always said that he moved to Madrid to win more than just one European title. The hunt for number three (Real Madrid's 12th) begins now for the Welshman and his team.