Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and… Gareth Bale?
Since being jettisoned into the spotlight of European football in October 2010 following his remarkable hat-trick against Inter Milan, Gareth Bale has gone from strength to strength.
The year 2013 has seen Bale continue to churn out a string of similar profile boosting, eyebrow raising performances for both club and country, the latest of which being in Tottenham’s 2-1 Europa League victory against Lyon which saw Bale turn in two flashy freekick goals from range. Of course performing with such panache on the big stage week in, week out naturally brings the media whirlwind out in force. Jamie Redknapp was quoted recently as saying Bale was up there with the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world, describing the scintillating wideman as “absolutely world class”. Soccer Saturday’s Jeff Stelling then usurped Redknapp’s words of praise just days later stating “it’s got to the stage where you can say that Bale is better than Ronaldo because he’s simply unplayable”. Harry Redknapp, having had firsthand experience of Bale’s expertise as ex manager of Tottenham, has also stuck his neck on the line several times hailing Bale as the next Messi or Ronaldo. Whether Gareth can be pigeon-holed into the category where Ronaldo and Messi have sat unopposed for the past 5 years remains to be seen, although it cannot be denied that the hype surrounding Bale is gathering pace at an alarming rate and unlikely to slow down any time soon.
Despite being centric to what can only be described as a media love-in right now things haven’t always been rosy for Bale during his Tottenham tenure however. In what later became known as ‘The Curse of Gareth Bale’ it took him 25 appearances for the north London club before being on the winning side. Nevertheless, after producing a succession of consistently excellent performances this season (notching an impressive 13 EPL goals in 23 appearances along the way) it is clear to see Bale is certainly bringing nothing but good fortune to AVB’s team currently. Bale, well renowned for his strength, pace and effective nature in one-on-one battles between attacker and defender, is surprisingly still only 23 and will turn 24 in July. Though whether the left-sided dynamo will still be a Spurs player then is a question that only time will answer. If reports are to be believed, both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are said to be interested in his signature and I’m sure there are more global footballing superpowers monitoring his performance on a weekly basis.
The idea of Madrid being interested in a Tottenham player is generally regarded as unsurprising by most, specifically in light of the events of August 2012. Following the transfer of a certain Croatian midfield maestro from Tottenham to Madrid, a partnership was revealed between the two clubs and subsequently widely publicised. The partnership agreement between the two clubs was heavily dumbed down with fluffy terms such as ‘respect of best practices’ and ‘commercial relationships’ to make the eventuality of Luka Modric’s transfer to Madrid a slightly less sensitive subject for Spurs fans. However the gravitas of the situation largely boils down to Madrid getting first refusal on Tottenham’s players and furthermore makes the Bale to Madrid transfer ever more likely. Not that Tottenham will leave empty-handed of course. A mix between the contemporary inflated price tag and the furor currently surrounding Bale leads to speculation that an exchange in excess of €50m could take place should the deal go ahead.
The question remains however, should a Madrid or Munich splash such extensive cash on Bale would they be acquiring the services of another Messi or Ronaldo? The answer simply put, is no. Undoubtedly they would be purchasing an incredibly rare talent and a player who, on his day, is a natural game changer and match winner. However they wouldn’t be purchasing a player likely to be pushing the two aforementioned footballing giants for the end of year world football awards anytime soon. In a world where fluidity and versatility must be innate in the modern-day midfielder what exactly sets Bale apart from the likes of Cavani, Ozil or Ribery? Undoubtedly the comparisons between Bale and Ronaldo during his EPL tenure cannot be disputed, their explosive nature up and down the flanks are second to none. However aside from said lazy comparisons is there really any evidence (minus two and half seasons worth of consistency) that corroborates with the idea of the Welsh White Hart Lane wonderboy being on par with Messi or Ronaldo? It’s clear to see Gareth has the talent, the ability and the mentality to be one of the Premier League’s best but Redknapp, Stelling and co. may be overstepping the mark to claim he’s in the top three players in the world right now.