Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Bale Should Make Hay

Gareth Bale is a talented footballer, of that there is no doubt. His form at the end of last season was excellent and this season he has picked up where he left off, as if the Summer and the World Cup never happened. There are many of us who wished it never happened! His play this season has been truly electric, with pace, an ability to beat a full back and goals. However, to read the papers and listen to the media pundits over the last 24 hours you would have thought the second football coming had been born in Cardiff, 21 years ago. The same pundits who were questioning his Spurs future 12 months ago, were placing him in exalted company, alongside Messi, Xavi et al.

As a 17 year old making his debut for Southampton it was clear that he was not just a great prospect. An athletic full back, with a great touch, a pinpoint cross and an eye for goal. Within 13 months he was moving to Spurs in a deal worth up to £10m, but a series of injuries blighted his Spurs career and Assou-Ekoto, a pretty average full back was keeping him out of the side. He got his chance when Assou-Ekoto, picked up an injury but even Harry Redknapp doubted his ability to step up having flattered to deceive in his few opportunities to date.

Although he came in at full back, his defensive game was not strong and that could be argued to still be the case. He certainly benefited from having the opposing full back occupied by the winger in front to allow him to bomb forward and find space. His attacking ability and flair gained recognition and deflection away from his defensive frailties. Now given a more advanced role, his blistering pace has given opposing full backs nightmares, but not all. Ask any Manchester United fan how effective he was up against Rafael or and Everton fan as to how he fared with Phil Neville.

Much has been made of his play against Maicon in the Champions League victory over Internazionale. Maicon, widely regarded as a great full back, has been described as being "devoured" and "destroyed" by Bale in various European papers. Yet people seem to forget that Maicon, like Bale, is a better attacking full back than a defensive one. Many players will struggle to cope with a ball pushed past them and Bale's blistering pace, not just the Brazilian.

The media have lined up to heap praise on him, not least Sky who saw Bale's personal performance and Spurs' victory as a justification for their continuing promotion "of the best league in the World".  And after all Spurs only finished fourth and just look at them go!  The sycophantic stupidity dragged on into the post match interviews where Geoff Shreeves slavered over Bale and asked Rafael Van Der Vaart if he had ever seen a player like that before. That will be Van Der Vaart who plays for the Netherlands, alongside Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder, who played at Ajax alongside Ibrahimovic and at Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka amongst others. I think he might have Geoff....

Even respected journalists have rolled out the superlatives for him. At this stage the superlatives should be for the performances, not so much so for the player. He is playing brilliantly, but back in January he was linked with a loan move out of White Hart Lane and warming the bench. A journalist I have respect for Patrick Barclay was tweeting effusive praise for Bale on Tuesday night - "Gareth Bale is the best player in the world (except Xavi, of course). And really pleasant human being. Can he remain so? Messi good example". He subsequently, following query, rephrased his tweet. After all 140 words are sometimes not enough to fully convey your message, even for a Times' journalist. "Am just saying Bale is second best in world at this moment. That's all. It keeps changing. Beauty of football." And at that point I started to agree with him. 

Bale is a good player. Right now, at this moment, he is one of the most in-form players in the world. He could be a great player. It's an over-used phrase, but form is temporary, class is permanent. Bale needs to take the adulation he is currently receiving, enjoy it and use it to spur (excuse the pun) himself on to further success. In post-match interviews he comes across as a level headed and quiet person. Let's hope under the increased media scrutiny he remains that way. Let us not forget that, despite being around for 5 years, he is only 21 years old. An opportunity for greatness presents itself rarely and by going about his business as he is now, that could be bestowed on Bale. But all in good time.        

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