Graham Hunter explains why Gareth Bale will be missed greatly in the Clasico and beyond
Real Madrid faces lengthy absence from action14:45 Friday 2 December 2016, 14:45 2 Dec 2016
As the latest edition of El Clasico rolls around, Barcelona are coming off some indifferent domestic results.
But Real Madrid will be missing one of their key men. Gareth Bale is not only out of this match but there are reports that he won't be back until April.
Real can still call upon Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema but as Spain-based football journalist Graham Hunter says, Bale's absence will be felt by Real on Saturday.
And it's not a question of his ability alone but his growing stature as one of the leaders on the pitch.
"Over recent months, he has proved to be much more of a team leader than at any stage in his career at Real Madrid," says Hunter on Off The Ball, pointing out that the length of time his contract has been renewed for proves how important the Welsh winger is considered now and with an eye to the future.
"That's on pure outright importance to the team."
And the impact will also be felt in terms of the team setup.
"Even though there are players that can step in to the breach and it may give more playing time to Lucas Vazquez, it may change the way Benzema feels about his role. It may give Asensio more time up front, it might even let James Rodriguez find a new role at Real Madrid," says Graham.
"But when you project all the way forward, Bale has been second leading goalscorer now Benzema has gone into a slump; Ronaldo played all summer and finished injured and is turning 32.
"If you were Zidane or the technical director, you'd be saying 'gosh, I wish we had a transfer window' - which they don't - so therefore I think the Bale impact genuinely I think will be important, not just individually, but for what happens to players around him between now and April."
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