Bale's bicycle bolt from the blue
Any player sitting on the bench goes through an internal thought process, peering through their mind's eye to visualise a scenario that sees you enter the pitch. They imagine the manager beckoning them forward, getting ready and entering the field of play - and they try to foresee the impact they will have on the game.
Gareth Bale was one such player. Not in the starting XI for arguably the biggest game in club football - the 2018 UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool - the Welshman had to settle for a place on the bench, and focus with his own vivid imagination as to how he would impact the game.
It is unlikely that in his wildest dreams, or most far-fetched in-game visualisations, that he would have foreseen the stunning impact he would have on the match after his introduction.
The No11 stepped onto the pitch in the 61st minute with the match finely poised at 1-1. Within three minutes, Bale drifted into a central position to support Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, as Marcelo received the ball on the Real Madrid left. The Brazilian lofted a cross into the Liverpool penalty area, which took a slight deflection off Sadio Mane on its way through.
Gareth Bale's Puskás Award-nominated goal versus Liverpool
Gareth Bale of Real Madrid sits on the bench prior to the UEFA Champions League Final
Isco of Real Madrid greets Gareth Bale of Real Madrid as he is substituted off and Gareth Bale comes on
The Welshman majestically adjusted his body, threw himself into the air and struck a superlative, looping bicycle kick over the helpless Loris Karius. A goal of undeniable class and agility that tilted the game in Los Blancos' favour. His coach Zinedine Zidane, who himself scored one of the most memorable Champions League final goals of all time against Bayer Leverkusen back in 2002, was even taken aback on the sidelines by the incredible strike.
Bale's second goal with seven minutes remaining sealed a 3-1 win in the final, earning Bale and Madrid a third straight Champions League victory. A quite brilliant impact from the bench by Bale.
What they said
"To score a goal like that on the biggest stage is a dream come true. I've never actually scored a bicycle kick – I've had many attempts! – and it's been something I've always wanted to do. I remember Marcelo clipping the ball and it was just at the right height – it was great to get the right connection and see it hit the back of the net." Gareth Bale
"What a goal from Bale, he was one of the best players out there. I told him how well he played and he knew it. Bale's one of the best players in the world." Florentino Perez