London – Gareth Bale turned up for his first day at the office and was warmly welcomed by the man he has replaced as the world’s most expensive footballer.
Perhaps conscious of Bale being seen as a pretender to Cristiano Ronaldo’s crown in the Spanish capital, Real Madrid made sure there was an early display of a united front as Bale was greeted by the man he referred to as ‘the boss’ in his presentation last week.
The two galacticos shook hands in a heavily staged ‘chance meeting’ in the club car park.
It is the picture Real president Florentino Perez has been desperate to see ever since Barcelona unveiled £48million Brazil star Neymar as Lionel Messi’s sidekick.
Bale arrived in Madrid on Wednesday morning and was driven to the same city-centre hotel where his coach Carlo Ancelotti is staying.
He will live there until he sets up home with his family in the same La Finca private estate that is home to Ronaldo.
Ancelotti emerged from Bale’s new temporary home just before the Welshman was driven up by club delegate Javi Coll.
The former Real Madrid basketball player has been employed for so long by the club to help English-speaking players settle in that he remembers David Beckham finding his feet in the city in 2003.
Bale was then driven to Real’s Valdebebas training complex, where Ronaldo was waiting to welcome him.
It was the man-bag versus the carrier bag as the anxious Madrid press got their first shots of the two men together – Ronaldo, Gucci number visible under his arm, and Bale, carrying a white plastic bag. The Welshman sported neither the sunglasses nor the back-to-front cap that have drawn comparisons with Ronaldo in recent weeks.
With temperatures reaching 25 degrees, Bale took to the training pitch for the first time at 5pm.
After some light physical work alone with Real fitness coach Giovanni Mauri, he joined the rest of his teammates as preparations begin for Saturday’s trip to Villa-rreal. But there was no chance to start building an understanding with Ronaldo as the Portugal forward trained apart with Isco, both men nursing knocks.
Attention now turns to how soon Ronaldo and Bale will be seen on the same pitch in a game.
Ancelotti is planning to start with Bale on the bench against Villarreal, easing him into life at his new club by bringing him on as a second-half substitute. He played just 33 minutes on Tuesday for Wales and their coach Chris Coleman suggested he was still not ready for a full game having appeared only once for Spurs in pre-season. Bale’s first start could come on Tuesday against Galatasaray in the Champions League, or next weekend when Real entertain Getafe.
Expectations that Ancelotti might be forced to change his conservative plan and give Bale a start on Saturday were raised by injuries to several Madrid internationals.
Full back Fabio Coentrao returned from Portugal duty with a muscle problem that could rule him out and there was speculation that Bale would be asked to turn back the clock and make his bow in the back four. But despite Coentrao’s problems and first-choice left back Marcelo also being ruled out it seems unlikely Bale will be asked to play his first match as a defender.
Madrid are conscious of the importance of such a big signing getting off to the best possible start. If midfielder Isco’s fitness does not improve, that could also open the door to Bale but Ancelotti has told his staff that the ideal scenario is for his side to take the lead against Villarreal and for Bale to come on in the second half, when he will find space against a team chasing the game.
Wednesday’s greeting from Ronaldo set the tone. – Daily Mail