Gareth Bale has had his ups and downs with Real Madrid all while battling injuries, but he's shown enough evidence that he has plenty more to give at the Bernabeu.
September 1, 2013, is a date that Tottenham Hotspur fans won't have forgotten. It's a date etched into footballing history; a date that Gareth Bale will never forget. It was the date that Gareth Bale became the most expensive footballer in the world.
A summer of speculation and wonder had engulfed the Spurs forward, with a summer move to Real Madrid mooted for months on end. Tottenham weren't willing to sell though, with chairman Daniel Levy, known for his tough negotiating stance, refusing to be moved on his asking price.
£100m was the demand for the Welsh wizard. Transformed under the guidance of Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas, Bale's metamorphosis from an average Joe left back into one of the most feared attacking threats in the world had been quite remarkable.
Lavished with praise throughout the season, recognition soon followed. Bale was named PFA Players' Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year for 2012/13. He added the Football Writer's Association Player of the Year award the next week, making Bale only the second player in history to ever win all three awards in the same season (Cristiano Ronaldo being the other in 2007).
Spurs had failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League though. Their prized asset had outgrown them, and Bale needed out. It took until deadline day for his move to be completed, but completed it was. To much fanfare and adulation, Bale signed on the dotted line for a reported £85.1m fee (equivalent to €100.8m); breaking the world record transfer fee previously held by Ronaldo.
Now a Galactico, Bale had achieved his goal of playing for Real Madrid. Things started off slowly due to injury, but the Welshman began to adapt to life in La Liga. Two goals and an assist in a thrilling 7-3 win over Sevilla saw Bale earn the nickname 'The Cannon'. He completed the year with a perfect hat-trick against Real Valladolid - his first treble for the club.
His performances were improving, and the level of praise being directed towards the Welshman was growing. Initial skepticism of his ability to play in Spain was a thing of the past, with Bale looking firmly forward. His time to shine had come, and he grabbed it with both hands.
Five minutes to go in the Copa Del Rey final, and Real were locked together with Barcelona in a dynamic and fiercely contested final. The Welshman was about to show the world why Real had forked out a world record fee for his services, with a goal that left pundits and fans alike gasping her breath.
Sprinting from the half-way line, Bale outsprinted Barcelona defender Marc Bartra as he rushed towards goal. The 25-year old left the pitch as he engineered his way around the Spanish international, steaming ahead of the bewildered defender and back onto the pitch. Advancing on Jose Manuel Pinto, Bale slotted past the Barca keeper to spark wild scenes of jubilation at the Mestalla and across the world. A truly phenomenal goal from the Welshman.
Barely a month later, Bale netted in the 110th minute as Real eventually overpowered neighbors Atletico to seal Los Blancos 10th UEFA Champions League success. In doing so, Bale became the first Welshman to score in a Champions League final. Part of the now dubbed BBC (Benzema, Bale and Cristiano), he scored 22 goals in his first season as the trio combined for an astonishing 97 goals between them.
His high level of performance continued during the next two seasons, though the famed BBC were swiftly overshadowed by great rivals Barcelona, who formed the notorious MSN (Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar) to great effect. Scoring goals and influencing proceedings with his pace and power continued to be an ongoing theme, though Bale's fitness worries began to kick in during this time.
Strains, sprains and pulls are part of every footballer's fabric, but Bale has suffered more than his fair share of muscle issues during his time at Real. It is perhaps a factor that has been the Welshman linked on occasion with a move away from the Bernabeu, with doubters suggesting the club will look to move forward with a more reliable player.
That said, replacing a player of his caliber would be hard to accomplish. Just ask Chris Coleman and the Wales national team, who owe so much to their lead talisman. Qualification for Euro 2016 was essentially secured by the performances of Bale alone, with his Welsh colleagues full of admiration for a player who has inspired a generation of young footballers in Wales.
Their accomplishments during the competition owe much to Bale's influence, though credit must be given to every single player who played in their famous run to the semifinal. For all of his tales of injury woe, Bale seemingly has a success story to tell off the back of it.
His latest success story could be becoming the focal point of Real Madrid's future. With Cristiano Ronaldo approaching his 33rd birthday, time is beginning to tick on the Portuguese megastar's time in Madrid. Linked with a move back to England, Ronaldo seems at odds with supporters and the club's board, as well as having a fractious relationship with the media.
Bale has 76 goals in 167 games for Los Blancos so far, with so much still to give. His impressive return against Deportivo this week reminded fans around the world of his natural ability, with the platform set for Bale for take over the mantle as Real's lead superstar.
Time is very much still on his side, and at just 28, he has years ahead of him at the highest level. His raw athleticism and wonderful footwork have not abandoned him during his spells on the sidelines, and coupled with a bit of luck, Bale could be the oil that keeps the Real Madrid machine ticking to success for many years to come.