Champions League final 2014: Gareth Bale admits ‘Real always had players to get you out of your seat’

Gareth Bale grew up idolising the Spanish giants. Now, he tells Jack Pitt-Brooke, he is on the verge of  making club history

When Gareth Bale was 12 years old he watched transfixed as Zinedine Zidane’s magical volley against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park won the ninth European Cup in Real Madrid’s glorious history. Bale could not have known that 12 years on, he would be entwined in the story of the same man, the same club, the same competition.

But here Bale is now, 24 years old, playing for Real, taking instructions from assistant coach Zidane and hoping to deliver the historic 10th European Cup – La Decima – against neighbours Atletico at the Stadio da Luz in Lisbon on Saturday evening.

It is already a special story but would be even more so if Bale were to be a European champion by the end of the week. He has come a long way from Tottenham, never mind from the Cardiff schoolboy who excelled at cross-country and athletics, and loved watching Real on TV.

“I was a huge Madrid fan, the club played with such a swagger, they believed they could win every game,” Bale says. “They always had players who would get you out of your seat and, as a fan, that’s what you want to see. It was just everything about Real Madrid – the team, the stadium, winning trophies, or getting close.”

Bale has been just as important as he would have hoped to this year’s European quest. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more Champions League goals for Real than Bale has this season. He has formed a destructive front three with Cristiano and Karim Benzema known as the “BBC”. Bale’s best friend at the club is Luka Modric, but he says that he and Ronaldo have “a very good relationship on and off the field”. The “BBC” combined to shred Schalke 6-1 in Gelsenkirchen in the last 16. Bale scored the brilliant second goal before adding another.

Facing Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final, Bale scored the opener in the 3-0 first-leg win before beating German opposition for the third time, Bayern Munich, in the semi-finals.

Winning the final would be a perfect end to the season, but it has already been successful for the forward. He won his first major honour in senior football, the Copa del Rey, as Real beat Barcelona 2-1 in the final at the Mestalla last month. Bale scored the winner with five minutes left, a goal it seems only he could have scored, sprinting past Marc Bartra down the left and beating goalkeeper Jose Pinto at his near post.

“That is what any player wants to do, score big goals in big games,” Bale says, on behalf of EA Sports’ 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil game. “I scored a similar goal for Wales a few weeks beforehand. I was just purely focused on the ball and if I am in a sprint with whoever I fancy myself to beat them. It was obviously great to score the goal, and the important thing was to win the first trophy of the season. That gave us a lot of confidence.”

It has certainly been impressive how quickly Bale has adapted to the demands of playing for Real and in the Champions League. His European debut for the club, a 6-1 win at Galatasaray in September, came two and a half years after his last game in the competition, Spurs’ 5-0 quarter-final defeat to Real in April 2011.

The settling-in period in Madrid, such as it was, was swift. “It took me a bit of time to get used to everything,” Bale says, “but I felt comfortable straight away playing football here with the best players in the world. And I have been enjoying it ever since.”

Away from the pitch, “certain things are a lot harder than others”, such as learning the language. “But it is about embracing everything, taking it on board, and trying to enjoy the ride.”

Ultimately, though, Bale is a footballer and his performances are what matter most, and have set the tone for his whole life in Madrid. “I have just come here and purely concentrated on my football. I have not dwelt on any media attention or anything like that. I have tried to get myself set up as quickly as possible and try to concentrate purely on my football, enjoy playing and let my football do the talking.”

“It’s important that we enjoy the atmosphere but remain focused on the match itself. That’s why you play for a huge club like Real Madrid.”

EA SPORTS 2014 FIFA World Cup is OUT NOW on Xbox 360 and PS3. Watch Gareth Bale's World Cup Dream at http://ea.vg/1o6UqqT

News
people
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
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.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam