Gareth Bale played a pivotal role in Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final triumph over Manchester City this week. What initially seemed to be the winning goal for the Welshman, was recorded as a Fernandinho own goal by UEFA.
The 26-year-old appears to have regained his form this season, after experiencing a dismal campaign last year and although he wasn't credited with the goal his influence on the team could not be questioned.
Bale has scored 19 goals in the La Liga and seven goals in the Champions League this season, an astonishing achievement when you consider goal machines Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema play in the same team.
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Ronaldo has registered 31 goals in the league alongside 16 in Europe, while Benzema has bagged 23 strikes in the league and four in Europe, which points to the dominance the Los Blancos have enjoyed this season, particularly since Zinedine Zidane replaced Rafael Benitez.
It is to be noted that Bale has only made 20 appearances in La Liga whereas Ronaldo and Benzema have played 34 and 24 times respectively, which deserves further praise for the Welshman's achievement.
Great recent form
The Welsh international has been in outstanding form recently and has arguably been Real's most influential player during the second half of the season.
The 26-year-old has scored four goals in his last three league appearances, including a match-winning brace in a 3-2 win against Rayo Vallecano.
Real's recent great form has allowed them to close the gap on leaders Barcelona to a single point, who, only a few weeks ago seemed to be racing away with the title.
During the El Clasico at the Nou Camp on April 2, Bale provided a crucial assist for Ronaldo's winner, which helped in slowing down Barca's title challenge.
Such has been his form this season that even Ronaldo's absence against Real Sociedad was barely felt, as Bale scored another important winner for the Los Blancos.
After reaching the Champions League final, Bale revealed he is feeling a lot more settled at the club: "My Spanish is getting better, I am integrating more with the team.
"I feel that I've turned a corner in that sense now and I am enjoying my football here."
The Welshman's improving chemistry with the rest of the team is evident on the pitch and most of Real's attacks tend to originate or go through him.
The winger is starting to become a crucial part of the team and finally seems to have the backing of the fans as well as club officials.
According to the Mirror, Bale is not yet looking to negotiate a new deal with the club but is eager to stay and improve.
Future Ballon d'Or winner
It is almost taken for granted that Ronaldo is Real's sole nominee for the annual Ballon d'Or. The Portuguese frontman's stats continue to eclipse that of any other player in the team, especially his 16 goals in Europe, equaling his own record.
However, with Bale's outstanding performances this season, he might be knocking on the door and could be one of the very first candidates in line to clinch the award once the likes of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi start to think about retirement.
Many at the club feel that Bale is the likely successor to the throne long occupied Ronaldo at Real. Based on his performances this season, it is hard to argue otherwise.
Fans are finally witnessing the true potential of the former Tottenham man, after seeing glimpses during his first season at the Bernabeu - the highlight being when he scored the decisive goal in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.
Real face their city rivals in the final of the competition yet again in Milan and Bale is sure to be an instrumental figure once more.
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