Míchel Salgado believes that with Gareth Bale playing again Real Madrid can become the first back-to-back European Cup winners of the Champions League era.
Salgado, a two-time winner of the trophy during a ten-year spell at the Bernabeu, lives and breathes Madrid and is even married to the daughter of former Real president Lorenzo Sanz.
And he believes Welsh wizard Bale, who returned to the Spanish giants’ Champions League starting line-up for their 3-1 second leg victory in Napoli on Tuesday, can make all the difference to his former club’s dream.
Bale suffered a serious ankle injury against Sporting Lisbon last November and has only recently recovered, but will be vital if Madrid are to claim their 12th European Cup in his home town, Cardiff, on 3 June.
“Bale is perfect for the way Real Madrid play in terms of making quick transitions from defence to attack,” said Salgado, who will be pulling on a Spain shirt again at Star Sixes at The O2 in July.
“When he is fit, he brings a lot to the team. He is a very special player.”
Salgado also praised Bale for making a success of his switch to Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
He revealed how difficult it can be for players who swap the Premier League for La Liga, having won trophies alongside English heroes Michael Owen and Steve McManaman.
“I know what it is like having played there for ten years,” continued Salgado, who will play against the likes of Owen, another former Madrid team-mate in Roberto Carlos and Steven Gerrard at Star Sixes.
“They want you to be in the fabric of their lives and I know it is not easy for players to move from England and assert themselves in Spain.
“It is very different to English football in terms of style and then you have the levels of scrutiny and attention, especially if you are at Real Madrid.
“It is a bit like playing for the English national team in terms of pressure. I do not think there is a club in England that can compare in terms of the level of attention and analysis of everything you do on and off the pitch.
“There are no excuses good enough even if you lose just one match for Real Madrid. There is nowhere to hide.
“Ask Michael Owen about it. He did very well over there and it takes a really special player to succeed there.
“Bale is special too and I think he can become an even more important player than he is.”
Tickets for the first Star Sixes international football tournament are now available to buy online from The O2, with prices starting at just £30 for adults and £10 for children. Visit Ticketmaster or AXS to book.