The 26-year-old, who joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of 100 million euros (£73.
5 million), clinched a 1-0 win for Wales over Cyprus in their Euro 2016 Group B qualifier on Thursday, a towering header not unlike a trademark effort from club team mate and FIFA Ballon d’Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo.
The victory lifted Chris Coleman’s side to 17 points from seven games and they can clinch a place at the finals in France next year if they beat Israel at home on Sunday.
Bale has scored (six) or assisted (two) eight of his nation’s nine goals in qualification and only Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, who took his tally to eight against Germany on Friday, has netted more.
Without Bale’s contribution, Wales would have 11 points fewer and would already be on the brink of elimination, according to Spanish Twitter statistician Mister Chip (@2010MisterChip).
“It was a great header but it’s nothing we as players haven’t come to expect from him,” defender Ben Davies told reporters.
While his exploits have prompted comparisons with Wales great John Charles, Bale has yet to achieve the same kind of success at Real that Charles did playing for Italian side Juventus in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Bale’s debut season in Spain was impressive, if not spectacular, and he scored in the finals of the Champions League and the King’s Cup.
However, he failed to push on from that last term, when Real missed out on the three main trophies and coach Carlo Ancelotti was sacked and replaced by Rafa Benitez.
Bale scored 17 goals in 48 outings in all competitions in 2014-15, compared with 22 in 44 appearances in 2013-14.
He also produced fewer assists, setting up 10 goals after 12 the previous year.
According to a survey of 725 Real members conducted by market research firm SigmaDos for Marca sports daily, Bale rated five out of 10 for the season.
That compared unfavourably with Portugal captain Ronaldo, who scored 7.8 after netting a La Liga-best 48 goals and 61 in all competitions.
And perhaps therein lies Bale’s problem at Real.
While with Wales he is the undisputed star of the team, at Real he has to defer to Ronaldo and has several more of the world’s highest-profile players around him like Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez and France forward Karim Benzema.
As Real president Florentino Perez’s marquee signing in 2009, Ronaldo confidently assumed the mantle from previous ‘galacticos’ like France great Zinedine Zidane, former Brazil striker Ronaldo and compatriot Luis Figo.
Bale, so far, has yet to show he is capable of being the number one man at the world’s richest club by income and the record 10-times European champions.
To be sure, Bale has made a fine start to his latest campaign with Real, scoring a double in a 5-0 thrashing of promoted Real Betis last weekend.
However, if he does not want to join other Real imports who have been considered a failure — including the likes of Kaka, Antonio Cassano and Nicolas Anelka — he will need to make a more telling contribution on a more consistent basis.
Exactly like he does for Wales.
(Editing by Toby Davis)