Former Real Madrid stars Steve McManaman and Michael Owen have expressed their belief that the previously out-of-favour Gareth Bale could still have an impact for the La Liga giants this season.
Since the return of Zinedine Zidane at the helm of Real, Bale looked to be on borrowed time at the Santiago Bernabeu with the French manager having stated the forward had no future at the club.
The Wales international was reduced to a bit-part role in the pre-season friendlies but, when the new campaign got underway at the weekend, he was surprisingly handed a starting berth in a 3-1 triumph at Celta Vigo.
QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS with: Liverpool & Real Madrid legend Steve McManaman
With the transfer window still open for a just under a fortnight, there should still be plenty of speculation surrounding Bale, who almost moved to the Chinese Super League before a prospective transfer to Jiangsu Suning collapsed.
Nonetheless, McManaman – who starred for Los Blancos from 1999 to 2003 – believes Real have few players of higher quality when Bale is fit and firing.
“Definitely,” he said without hesitation, when asked by FOX Sports Asia in a one-on-one interview if the Welshman still hard a part to play at the club.
“Gareth had a number of injuries last year but he still played a lot, contributed a lot and scored a lot.
“He’s always maintained he wants to stay at Real Madrid. I know Real Madrid have been trying to move him on… but I think Gareth has conducted himself absolutely fine.
“I’m glad he played the other day [against Celta] and I’m glad he starred in the side, and he’s got a hugely important part to play.
“He’s definitely one of the better players when he plays well and he’s fit.”
View this post on Instagram
Like McManaman and Bale, Owen – who netted 16 goals in 45 games for Real – was another hailing from the United Kingdom that made the move to Madrid and had to get used to a different country, culture and style of football.
Although Bale has had his fair share of critics in his time in Spain, Owen is adamant he deserves plenty of credit for what he has achieved in the past six years, which have included a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey and four UEFA Champions League crowns – of which he played a starring role in the success of 2017/18.
“Well, Gareth’s coped with it [adjusting to playing in Spain] as well, and his record is quite frightening in terms of what he’s won, the goals he’s scored and the games he’s played,” explained the 2001 Ballon d’Or winner.
“Of course, he’s got loads of ability but time moves on in football and sometimes you’re more in favour or out of favour. And I suppose in recent months, it’s been more difficult for Gareth but he can be obviously very proud of what he’s done so far.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) August 19, 2019
“But he’s played a big role in the first game so, all of a sudden, it confuses you even more – just when you think he might be leaving and Zidane is maybe leaving him out, all of a sudden he has a big role to play in the first game.
“So who knows? His future might still be at Real Madrid.”
McManaman and Owen were both in Singapore speaking on the sidelines of the announcement of La Liga’s new partnership with Global Crypto Offering Exchange (GCOX).
Founded in 2017, GCOX has gained popularity with fans looking to engage and interact with their favourite celebrities and brands through the promotion of a full-utility token economy, and they have now added La Liga to their portfolio.
As part of the partnership, GCOX will provide exclusive products, services, social interactions, football tourism and “money-can’t-buy” experiences for fans and the global crypto community.
“We are really pleased to be announcing this partnership with a world-class competition like La Liga,” said Sir Dr. Jeffrey Lim, co-founder and CEO of GCOX.
“This partnership will allow us to provide specific customer groups with opportunities, as well as attracing new customers and football fans, who will get to experience what La Liga is all about.”