Bayern Munich v Real Madrid: Gareth Bale ready to prove worth as Real seek elusive prize

Bayern trail 1-0 after the first leg at the Bernabeu

In the last frantic knockings of David Moyes’ botched summer transfer window, Gareth Bale was offered a choice between Manchester United or Real Madrid. As he looked around a jammed press room at the Allianz Arena yesterday, Bale might have reflected that he would have had an easier introduction to football in Manchester but he would not have had this.

“I am a little bit nervous, everyone gets a little nervous,” he said weighing up the second leg of a Champions League semi-final against a Bayern Munich side who are supposed to play the best football on the planet, but who find themselves 1-0 down.

“It is such a big game, after all, but these are positive nerves. If you want to win trophies, you have to play against the big teams, the great teams.”

FOLLOW ALL THE ACTION FROM THE MATCH WITH OUR LIVE BOG HERE

Bale’s goal in the final of the Copa del Rey against Barcelona, which stands comparison with Ryan Giggs’ FA Cup strike against Arsenal in 1999, has convinced Madrid that he was worth £86m, although, significantly, his manager, Carlo Ancelotti, predicted he would have a better second season at the Bernabeu.

Lining up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in a strike force that cost £194m to propel Real Madrid towards the yearned for La Decima – their 10th European Cup – would make that point more eloquently than anything Bale could say in Munich.

He spoke English rather than Spanish and, like the most famous British export to the Bernabeu, he has David Beckham’s gift for saying nothing very much while doing it very politely. Yes, he would enjoy playing alongside Ronaldo: “He is a massive reason I came to Madrid, to play with the best in the world.” But the press conference room in the Allianz Arena was not the time or the place for intimate confessions.

Many in Munich believe it is time for the Bayern manager, Pep Guardiola, to reassess his values. As one newspaper put it: “This is no place for tiki-taka. It is time to attack.”

Never before have Guardiola’s principles been under such scrutiny as they have been in the wake of the 1-0 first-leg defeat in Madrid. The statistics on the sheet handed out after the final whistle in the Bernabeu were mocking. Bayern had more than 70 per cent of possession, they had forced 15 corners to three and twice the number of shots as Real. And yet the only one that mattered was Benzema’s.

In the bowels of the stadium the sense of certainty that surrounded Bayern Munich’s attempt to become the first side since Milan in 1990 to retain the European Cup began to evaporate. The chief executive, Karl-Heniz Rummenigge, talked of turning Munich into “a hell” for Real Madrid, although as one wag put it, hell at the Allianz Arena was when they run out of Weisswurst at half-time.

On Saturday, after a 5-2 victory over Werder Bremen, Guardiola’s captain, Philipp Lahm, had spoken of Bayern having to “put their foot to the floor” and of playing with “heart and spirit”. Guardiola said that Franck Ribéry, who had been neutered in Madrid, was now “angry”.

Ribery in action during the first leg  

And yet this will be a night when every fibre of Guardiola’s being will demand that Bayern Munich play like his teams always have. In 2011, his Barcelona were pitched against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals and they beat them beautifully according to the values that he and the man beside him, his assistant Tito Vilanova, learnt at the academy at La Masia.

Now, Vilanova is dead and, although there will be a minute’s silence for the man who, too briefly, managed Barcelona, the most fitting tribute would be for Bayern Munich to reach a third successive Champions League final in a manner true to Guardiola’s beliefs.

And yet, although Real have never won in Munich, Bayern will probably fail, partly because they have fallen victim to their own success.

When Sir Alex Ferguson discussed his treble season he made one significant point. Manchester United won the Champions League in 1999 partly, he said, because the big games came so rapidly that his players did not have time to think about the history they were about to make.

Bayern won the Bundesliga in March and they have had far too much time. The intensity of their performances has waned dramatically and on Saturday Werder Bremen, a team almost 50 points behind them, counter-attacked well enough to embarrass them briefly in their own stadium as Werder took the lead.

Ancelotti has Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema and Angel di Maria. He is not going for a goalless draw, although when it was put to him that he would adopt the cautious catenaccio (door bolt) tactics perfected in Serie A, he smiled: “Catenaccio is not a bad word. I am an Italian, we like catenaccio, we won a lot with catenaccio.” But everyone in that room knew that tonight he would go for the kill.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones