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Gareth Bale has not filled Cristiano Ronaldo's shoes at Real Madrid

  /  autty

It is approaching five years since Gareth Bale, in one of his first flashes of brilliance in a Real Madrid shirt, singlehandedly won them the 2014 Copa del Rey.

In the 85th minute of the final, Bale received the ball inside his own half. He started sprinting, left Barcelona defender Marc Bartra in his dust and scored.

Cristiano Ronaldo, injured for that match, celebrated wildly in the stands. Bale stepped up in the absence of Madrid's main man on that occasion. This season, he hasn't.

At the Nou Camp on Wednesday night, he had his chance to become the hero of the hour against Barcelona in that same competition, just like five years ago. Instead, he choked.

It was 1-1, and with less than 10 minutes left, Bale had what was as good as an open goal ahead of him. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was in no man's land. Gerard Pique had scrambled back to cover on the line but should have been easy to avoid.

Yet Bale's first touch was heavy, his second wasn't the greatest either and his third saw him scuff his shot wide, tumbling to the turf as he hit it.

So the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg finished all square and Bale, not for the first time, found himself being persecuted by Real's demanding fans as a result.

His career has often been curtailed by injuries but when Real jetted off to Miami for pre-season, all eyes were on the 29-year-old Welshman.

After his overhead kick against Liverpool – perhaps the best-ever goal in the history of the Champions League, particularly considering it came in a final – expectations were high.

Real sold Ronaldo to Juventus for £99million and kept the money in the bank as they kept faith in Bale. He had a summer to rest, with Wales not in the World Cup, and was physically at his peak.

New coach Julen Lopetegui wanted to build the team around him, believing this would be his breakout season with a certain Portuguese superstar out of the picture.

Instead, it is 18-year-old Brazilian Vinicius Junior who has become the talk of the Bernabeu, while Karim Benzema has also rediscovered his scoring touch.

Bale's greatest season for goals remains the 22 he scored in his first season at the club. He also contributed 16 assists that campaign – still his best to date.

In 2018-19 so far, he has scored 11 and set up five in all competitions, which aren't numbers to shout about. Not when Real knew they had to replace someone who averaged a goal a game.

Bale did not start against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey in midweek. He instead came off the bench in the 64th minute, replacing Brazilian teenager Junior.

It remains to be seen whether the Wales international will start against Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Saturday, or against Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Junior has started Real's last five league games under head coach Santiago Solari, after featuring for just 12 minutes under Lopetegui previously.

Guillem Balague says Junior has 'a bit of both Ronaldos', which is praise of the highest order, and fans adore him.

Indeed he seems to have more of a connection with Benzema than Bale does, hence why Solari decided to start him on the left over the Welshman against Barcelona.

Now, Bale's future seems uncertain all over again. After his overhead kick against Liverpool in the Champions League final, he said: 'I need to be playing week in, week out.'

Finding himself second choice to an 18-year-old in El Clasico will not have sat well.

This season was supposed to be the one where Bale stepped out of Ronaldo's shadow, but that has yet to happen.