Is Gareth Bale the best winger in Europe at present?

by Charlie Coffey

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

The name everybody’s lips today is quite understandably that of Gareth Bale. After scoring a hat-trick in the San Siro two weeks ago, Bale again destroyed Inter Milan’s defenders at White Hart Lane last night. The young Welshman’s performances are even more astonishing when you consider that the players he humiliated over the two matches are among the best defenders he has ever faced – Maicon, Javier Zanetti and Lucio.

Rather than provide the deft technical ability combined with pace that is usually the only way to unlock top European defences and that Bale’s Welsh predecessor Ryan Giggs has used to great effect in the past, Bale employs a simple catch me if you can approach, knocking it past whoever dares to get in his way and beating them for pace and power. His raw speed is complemented by a seemingly inexhaustible supply of stamina, which was shown in the last minute of the last night’s game as he tore down the left flank yet again before putting in the perfect cross for Roman Pavlyuchenko to score, his second assist of the match. Two weeks ago Bale scored two late goals whilst outpacing the aging, tiring Zanetti in the process.

One thing Bale possesses that is absolutely vital to his success a range of other attributes to complement his speed. His crossing last night displayed awareness, composure and a football brain that many footballers in his mould lack. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Theo Walcott and Bale’s team-mate Aaron Lennon so often frustrate when their pace gets them into the type of vital positions that Bale reached time and again last night. Bale not only knows what to do in these situations, but can also deliver. His finishes in the San Siro across the keeper from left two right (this keeper being the great Julio Cesar, by the way) were of unerring accuracy and astonishing consistency, especially considering the pace at which the ball was travelling when it was struck. Bale is also an excellent free-kick taker, which shows the quality he has when striking the ball. None of the other three players mentioned above excel in this department.

If Bale can make fools of Maicon and Lucio, he can do so to anyone. Both players made it into UEFA’s team of the year last season along with Julio Cesar as Inter, lest I remind you, won the Champions League. When Jose Mourinho moved from Inter to Real Madrid, Maicon was the first player he wanted to sign. Mourinho does not stand for ill-discipline in his defenders. While Maicon is more famed for his attacking qualities, one thing he does have is pace, yet he was no match for Bale. Lucio is one of the best technical defenders in the game, is strong, and uses every trick in the book to dispossess attackers. Again he could not touch Bale.  Zanetti, who was fruitlessly employed in marking Bale once Maicon had been moved elsewhere for his own good during the match at the San Siro, has the excuse that his 37-year-old legs are no match for Bale, 21, but then Zanetti is often called ‘Il Trattore’ (the Tractor) because of his stamina.

Bale’s heroic’s last night prove that he has a head for the big occasion, but the surprising thing is that he has not provided a single assist in the Premier League this season despite playing every single minute of all ten of Spurs’ games. His outrageous volley against Stoke on the 23rd of August was the last time he scored in domestic football, which is in stark contrast with his four in four Champions League games. While there’s nothing wrong with being a big match player, Spurs fans will be wondering why Bale can’t do to lesser opponents on a regular basis what he did to Inter last night.

Inter Milan were touted as having been interested in signing Gareth Bale even before their two matches against Tottenham, so there is every chance they will be desperate to have him on their team rather than having to face him in the future. Manchester United were one of the clubs interested in Bale’s signature before he joined Spurs from Southampton three years ago, and I even heard Gary Neville cursing down the phone that United had missed out on him when I happened to walk past him in Manchester in 2007. At the time though the emergence of Patrice Evra as United’s first-choice left-back and a wealth of wingers including Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs (to which Bale would in fact be the perfect heir), meant that Bale saw Spurs as a club at which he would be given more first-team football. After watching Bale last night Alex Ferguson must be kicking himself for not making a more concerted effort to sign him when he had the chance.

While the biggest clubs in the world must be tempting for any player no matter how grounded, Bale has just signed a new contract at Spurs, has one of the finest man-managers with an excellent record of helping young players reach their potential in Harry Redknapp, and is starring on the European stage whilst beating the Champions League holders in front of an adoring home crowd. For these reasons it looks like Spurs fans will be enjoying Bale’s mercurial performances for some years to come, if they can maintain their Champions League status, that is.

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  • Racehound

    wow!!!! gotta say wow!!! the kid was unbelievable… 5 goals in both legs were down to him!Thats an amazing stat when you think our prem league “contenders” (loss to West Scam..bookies “result” thanx to `Arry and Avrams show` farking bookies killing” bullsh!t 3 points THROWN AWAY to phuq the bookies…..#:) i need a beer

  • Racehound

    Forgot to say…There can only be 1 nickname for Gareth Bale…..”Ballistic Bale”…The 21 yo is amazing for his age! Who has EVER done what he has done against the current European Champions? Amazing stat…could be centuries before that 1 gets beaten!! Ballistic because he is totally explosive with those runs down the left and the goals!! If he is trying to emulate Thierry Henri, (yes.plebs, that brown fukwit who handled the ball before he crossed it for the winning goal that knocked the Irish outta the World Cup nonsense….except for Sp0ain winning… then GB is doing a far better job!!! Henri sh!t..Bale Ballistic!!!!!!!!!! #:)

  • Racehound

    wait a minute….Bullet Bale sounds even better!! ok..Bullett it is!!! #:)

  • Danny Goodwin

    Must be nailed on for a move to Barca or Real Madrid in 2011?

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