Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale has lauded the technical standard of the Spanish La Liga in comparison to the English Premier League just six months into his career with the Spanish giants.
The Welshman joined Real for a reported €91m from Tottenham Hotspur in September after being crowned as the Premier League's best player by his fellow professionals and the football writers last season due to his stunning performances. However, he is enjoying the change to a less physical style of play in Spain and has been impressed by the willingness of even some of the sides struggling at the bottom of the table to try and play a passing game.
"The big difference is the tactical play and the way all teams play a lot of good football," Bale said. "There are no long balls like there are in England. That is the biggest thing about Spain, it is all passing and movement. It has been a new experience which I am obviously learning from and enjoying. All the teams, no matter if they are at the top or the bottom, try to play football. It is exciting, it is a great league and it is great to be playing here."
A series of niggling injuries plagued Bale's start to the campaign, but his return to fitness and form has coincided with Real embarking on a 29-game unbeaten run stretching back to October. Barcelona's surprise 1-0 defeat to Valladolid last weekend allowed Real to open up a four-point gap on their eternal rivals at the top of the table.
Taking nothing for granted
However, Bale is taking nothing for granted as he targets three trophies in his first season in the Spanish capital.
"Obviously we are in a very good position at the moment, but there are still 11 games left to go. We need to take every game as it comes and concentrate only on our own performances. Hopefully we can keep playing well and achieve our goals."
Real face Barça twice in the next month in La Liga and the Copa del Rey final and could even meet four times in 25 days if they are drawn together in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Barça booked their place in the quarters on Wednesday with a 4-1 aggregate win over Manchester City.
Madrid, meanwhile, are practically in the last eight too as they lead Schalke 6-1 from the first leg of their tie in Germany and Bale is sure they will face a tougher test in the next round.
"The Champions League is full of great teams, every team left in the competition can potentially win it,' said Bale. "For me, everybody left in the competition can consider themselves a favourite and whoever we draw next it is going to be a difficult game. The tournament is really wide open and it just depends on who takes their chances."
Bale has managed to rack up 14 goals and 11 assists in just 25 appearances in La Liga and the Champions League so far this campaign, but he is sure there is more to come having overcome the initial challenges of a change in lifestyle when moving countries.
"Naturally it has taken me a bit of time to get used to everything, but I am really enjoying my football and especially the weather," he joked. "I have enjoyed my six months in Spain so far. It took me a bit of time to get up to speed, but I think my performances have come on well. I still feel like there is a lot more to come from me. Hopefully, I can keep improving and playing well."