No World Cup should be Bale's boon
Playing in the finals of a World Cup should be the pinnacle of any footballer's career, but the silver lining for those Real Madrid players not heading for Brazil this summer is much-needed rest and recuperation ahead of what is set to be a long and tiring club campaign.
Los Merengues' Champions League success took its toll this season. The offshoot of clinching La Decima was lingering injuries to Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Pepe. Marcelo and Raphael Varane were regulars in the Valdebebas treatment room, and Sami Khedira spent much of his season out with a knee injury.
All five will face a battle to be 100 percent fit in Brazil, and all five, in an ideal world, could do with putting their feet up and having some time off. Instead, some will play through the pain barrier, and that will leave Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti watching some of his stars from behind the sofa as he gears up for his second season at the Bernabeu.
Ancelotti will take particular note of Ronaldo's summer with Portugal. The 29-year-old scored in his dream Champions League final victory in Lisbon, but he was not firing on all cylinders. La Liga's top scorer limped through the final weeks of the campaign with a thigh injury, and he is not certain to start his country's first match against Germany. Rest is the best medicine, and that will not be forthcoming for the former Manchester United man over the next month.
Madrid will be well-represented in Brazil, with 12 players involved for seven different nations, but for them the competition will come in the middle of arguably their toughest season yet. Success in the Champions League and Copa del Rey extended their campaigns, and Los Blancos were involved in the race for La Liga until the last few weeks of the season. This season's success means more matches next season, too, with the European Super Cup against Sevilla kicking off a campaign that will see Ancelotti's side compete for trophies on six fronts.
The two-legged Spanish Super Cup against neighbours Atletico Madrid will follow the European clash in Cardiff, and that will surround the start of the new La Liga season, which will see Madrid gunning for the title after a two-year gap. As Christmas approaches, so does the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco. Ancelotti has one of the best and biggest squads in world football at his disposal, but president Florentino Perez will demand success in every competition next season as he looks to go toe-to-toe with Pep Guardiola's all-conquering Barcelona side of 2009. An easy season it will not be.
Those Madrid players not taking their seats on a plane to Brazil would desperately love to, and some will do in the future, but at least they'll have the time to recover from the demands of a hectic season and prepare for one that will raise the bar even further. Players such as Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Isco will not be gracing the world stage later this month, but they should at least benefit from a full preseason.
Bale in particular will look forward a much-needed holiday -- at least when he's not involved in promotional tours around the world -- and a preseason, after struggling with injury 12 months ago. The Welshman missed the majority of the offseason last summer with Tottenham Hotspur, and it took him a while to get up to speed in the Spanish capital before ultimately enjoying a fantastic debut campaign with Los Blancos. Players do not enjoy returning for preseason training, but a good one helps them prepare for the tough season that lies ahead. Bale, as well as Isco, Carvajal, Asier Illarramendi and the rest, should feel the benefits ahead of an action-packed campaign.
That will leave Madrid fans excited for what they can expect from their jet-heeled winger next term. Bale had a better-than-expected debut campaign for Madrid in scoring a stunning winning goal in the final of the Copa del Rey and the decisive extra-time goal in Lisbon, but the Welsh wing wizard has promised more. A full and injury-free preseason, coupled with an even stronger understanding with Ronaldo and Benzema, as well as the club and the city, should leave La Liga defences even more concerned next season. Bale's absence from the World Cup, although disappointing, should help that.
For players such as Carvajal and Isco -- the former of whom made the initial Spain squad but didn't make the final cut -- it will not only help their general fitness but it will leave them with an appetite to prove they are good enough to represent their country at the next big tournament, and in the qualifiers that will follow this summer's competition. That will only be a good thing for Madrid and Ancelotti.
They say success breeds success, and World Cup glory for any of Madrid's stars in Brazil will give them another shot in the arm following La Decima. The Spanish trio of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso, as well as Brazil full-back Marcelo and Argentine winger Angel Di Maria in particular will have a good chance of doing just that. The real winners for Real Madrid this summer, however, could well be those not present in South America. A tough, long and possibly glorious season awaits Los Merengues, and a fully fit Bale, Isco and Carvajal should be central to that.
Their World Cup loss is Real Madrid's gain.