Is Gareth Bale right up there with the best currently in the game?
Oh yes, I had to hop on the Gareth Bale bandwagon because the 23 year old has been nothing short of exceptional this season for Tottenham and to be realistic, I simply cannot find any better player in football to write about at this moment. Ahh yes, the Lewandowski quadruple of goals against Madrid is still fresh in the memory but fading fast. There was the cannibal act of Luis Suarez in the game between Liverpool and Chelsea, which prompted one of my friends on Facebook to say “It’s because he has an appetite for the game, so let us not mock him” (How whimsical ehh?). Even the world is tired of talking about Messi and Ronaldo (The Copa Del Rey and La Liga Classicos were entertaining but not as intriguing as usual). Well, the Champions league semi-final has come and passed, and I was going to be more than happy to see a German and a Spanish team or two German teams in the final just because I have watched countless Classicos in recent seasons to last me another 20 years (God Willing). But while the news on the glory of every title winning team and players will phase out in the summer, all eyes will be on Gareth Bale for the next step he chooses in the development of his career.
In the last two or arguably three seasons, Bale has had a meteoric rise in his footballing career leading to comparison with Cristiano Ronaldo (I find this really unjust by the way). Ronaldo’s stats are way superior to Bale’s in terms of both goals scored and assists. Even if Bale’s stats are compared to Ronaldo’s when he was 23, the latter still has the upper hand. Both players have some similar features: power, set-piece experts, strength and a winning mentality. Ronaldo is a speed star with flicks and tricks, and he is as good as any header of the ball that you can find in the game both past and present. Bale on the other hand is pacey and more direct, while he has a few tricks up his sleeve, he always seems to rather run and charge past his players.
For me, Gareth’s rise has been dazzling because he started his career as a left back. I am sure Bale had no clue he had the ability to conjure up some of the things he is doing at the moment. So, credit to Harry Redknapp for converting him to a left winger. An early indication of what was to come from the new boy wonder was his superb displays in the champions League tie against Inter Milan two seasons ago. His marauding runs on the left wing for the past 2-3 seasons just makes him look like a bully (Maicon at the peak of his powers can testify to this). Moreover, Gareth Bale has been used more as a centre attacking midfielder since the turn of the year and the current Tottenham coach Andre Villas Boas in-directly gets the credit for this although Bale should receive some praise for daring to play in that position due to the absence of Defoe to injury. Startlingly, for a player that has majorly plied his trade on the left side of the field, he has flourished more than ever. According to statistics on http://www.whoscored.com/Players/13812, 10 of Bale’s premier league goals this season have come from playing as an A-C-M midfielder in just 12 games.
Amazingly, he is such a level headed lad as he openly admitted that he has to work on certain aspect of his game (Mainly his right foot), but by looking at his stats over 4 seasons (http://espnfc.com/player/_/id/77653/gareth-bale?cc=3888#ui-tabs-1) there is a lot of inconsistency in terms of his assists (this might be due to the quality of strikers at the end of his services) and he is pretty new to the class of regular goal bangers. So, the jury might still be quietly out on him when compared with world class players in other leagues.
This season, Gareth Bale has won the entire domestic individual accolades in the English league bar the golden boot, but team trophies are missing from his cabinet. For a player as ambitious as he his, team trophies coupled with individual recognition will truly shape his legacy as a footballer. At the moment, Tottenham cannot offer him trophies although, for a loyal player that he has so far been, champions league football might just be enough to keep him for an additional season at Tottenham Hotspur before he inevitably starts to cry out for a guaranteed trophy winning club. Well the great seducer of great players, “Real Madrid” is the major club that has been publicly flirting with Bale. A pole of about 60,000 Madrid fans on the internet showed 93% would prefer Bale to be signed over Neymar (http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1447056/madrid-fans-choose-bale-neymar?cc=3888) which emphasises how much his popularity and status has grown in the game. Fingers crossed, if Tottenham beats Sunderland and Arsenal somehow manages not to defeat Newcastle, then he might still be gearing up in the white jersey at “White hart lane” next season. No disrespect to Tottenham though, a player of Bale’s class will eventually want to join a bigger club. If or when he moves, the question will be whether or not it will be wise for him to ply his trade abroad (i.e Spain). But at such a young age, staying in England might just be the best bet for him as Mark Hughes and Michael Owen can testify.