Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Isco.

Real Madrid with Gareth Bale vs Real Madrid without Gareth Bale - there's only one winner

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Few can dispute that Gareth Bale has not been a qualified success since moving to Real Madrid for a then-world record fee of £85.1 million nearly four years ago.

The 27-year-old has claimed two Champions League winner's medals and can make it three in four seasons when Real take on Juventus in his hometown of Cardiff on Saturday night.

He has also won La Liga this season, the Copa del Rey in 2013-14 as well as the FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2014.

Although Cristiano Ronaldo has been the undisputed goal machine during Bale's tenure - he has 201 goals in 194 games since Bale's arrival - the Welshman has been more than a healthy contributor.

In La Liga, the former Tottenham winger has notched an impressive 54 goals in 100 games and alongside the likes of Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, that is no easy feat.

But the 2016-17 campaign has been Bale's toughest one to date. After playing 92 games in his first two seasons at the Bernabeu, Bale only managed 52 in the subsequent two with under half of those coming this season.

As Bale enters his prime, injuries appear to be getting the best of him and his stop-start campaign has prevented him from finding his best form. For the first time in his Madrid career, he failed to score in double figures this season.

So, it begs the question ahead of Real's showdown with Juve: Are Madrid better off without Bale in the side?


As you can see from the graphic above, Real were eleven points better off in the league without the flying Welshman in their side and the stats don't get any better for Bale.

Isco has been in scintillating form in Bale's absence and has proven to be a major catalyst behind Real's march towards the league title and their place in the Champions League final.

According to Genting Bet, Los Blancos win 54 per cent of their matches when Bale starts in comparison to Isco's vastly superior 75 per cent. Furthermore, Ronaldo scores 1.08 goals a game alongside Isco as opposed to the 0.46 goals he yields alongside Bale.


Worse still, Madrid average more goals as a team with Isco in the side, albeit, fractionally.

So, if the team functions better without Bale and the crown jewel Ronaldo performs better without him, is there really much of a case to include the Southampton youth product?

The second-most expensive player in the world - now behind Paul Pogba - has also conceded he is not 100% ahead of the final at the National Stadium of Wales.

“I am not 100 per cent, I haven't played for six or seven weeks," he confirmed. "I obviously had my operation which still really hasn't recovered. I have been playing with a lot of pain, even when I came back I was taking tablets to get through games and training.

Real Madrid CF v Sporting Clube de Portugal - UEFA Champions League

“The last six or seven weeks have enabled me to rest my ankle a bit and really try to get it a bit better, and obviously recover from the injury which it caused," Bale said. "I am not 100 per cent, but I have been working hard, double sessions the last few weeks, to get myself as ready as I can, whether to start, or to be involved at some point.”

There is no denying that Bale has supreme individual talent that can win any match on its own. Take the Copa del Rey final goal against Barcelona in 2014, for example.

While he is a special player, boss Zinedine Zidane has stumbled across a winning formula in Bale's absence that shouldn't be ignored. Isco's form has been so good that even James Rodriguez has been confined to a well-paid spectator role.

Whatever Zidane decides to do, Bale will remain an explosive ace up his sleeve, but, if Ronaldo is to thrive on the grandest stage in club football, Isco must start.

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