Abu Dhabi: Wales star Gareth Bale may have been in the shade for a while with injury but on Wednesday night, he made an instant impact coming off the bench.
With the goal from his first touch, Bale put Real Madrid, who missed a glut of chances, firmly en route to the final of the Fifa Club World Cup past a stubborn Al Jazira 2-1 in an absorbing semi-final full of incidents.
The former Spurs man, who had only played 30 minutes in the past three months and has been struggling with persistent calf and thigh muscle problems, was extremely delighted to come to the team’s cause straight away.
“It was nice to come on and deliver. Obviously, players go through these phases. This was my time I suppose. It has been difficult but it was nice to come on and get the winner,” said Bale, whose shot from inside the box was very much goal-bound. Cristiano Ronaldo, who had his back to the goal, tried to stick his foot in to flick it back but pulled out at the last minute to allow the ball to settle into the netting.
“It didn’t matter who scored to get into final, but it was nice on a personal note,” said Bale acknowledging that he is still not 100 per cent and needs time to be at his peak.
“I need to build my fitness and it’s been frustrating few months with injury. I have to take my time though. It is a great comeback today but I need to be patient with myself and have to keep working hard on my fitness,” said Bale, who is keen on not missing out on any more matches for Real in the remaining part of the season.
“It is a long season and hopefully now I can come back from this and play the rest of the games in the season. It would be nice if I can do that,” said the 28-year-old, who was the costliest acquisition at a fee of 85 million pounds by Real in 2013.
The performance has come at a time when speculation is rife that Bale has reached an agreement with Real Madrid to leave the Bernabeu next summer. The Welsh flyer is on the wishlist of Jose Mourinho for Manchester United.
When asked if the fans will be able to see him play with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo again, a smiling Bale said: “Sure, why not, of course.”
Portuguese star Ronaldo, while speaking to the official broadcasters ahead of the semis, had indicated that he was happy for Bale to stay at Real and was looking forward to playing alongside him.
“I like that the squad is complete, not only with Karim and Gaz. I like that there are no injuries, it is a good sign, a sign that we are all together and that the squad is very good. It would be great if BBC played together again,” Ronaldo had said.
Now that Bale has shown signs of his old self, fans will be hoping that Real go on to add the fifth title in the calendar year by winning the Club World Cup on Saturday. And Bale is also upbeat about going all the way.
“Obviously, it is our main objective, for us to come and win the tournament. This win is kind of first step ticked off and now we concentrate on the final,” said Bale, who was not bothered at all about who they would be meeting in the finals.
“Gremio… I didn’t know who is in the finals till you said about it. It will be nice to recover before heading into the next game.”