A class act

Gareth Bale’s progression in terms of build, technique, goal-scoring ability and strength draws comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo’s development at Manchester United which saw him begin to perform at a level light years ahead of his peers.

“World class”; “amazing”; “inspirational”! These are not words that would have been associated with Gareth Bale five years ago.

A record run of 24 English Premier League games without being on the winning side had Tottenham fans tearing their hair out with frustration.

The Wales international was struggling to establish himself at White Hart Lane and he was even linked with a GBP3 million switch to Birmingham.

But those days are now a distant memory, as the last three years have seen a dramatic transformation in just about every aspect of Bale’s game.

Initially employed as a left-back after his move from Southampton, Bale has utilised his pace, power and skill to become one of the most dangerous players in world football.

His progression in terms of build, technique, goal-scoring ability and strength draws comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo’s development at Manchester United which saw him begin to perform at a level light years ahead of his peers. Bale shot to prominence with a hat-trick against Inter Milan in the Champions League 2010 and he is now one of the stars of the EPL.

The Welshman has found another gear this season and he has been unstoppable in recent weeks. Scoring 12 goals — including some contenders for goal of the season — in his last 13 games, Bale has inspired Spurs to move up to third in the EPL and also progress to the last 16 in the Europa League.

And Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas believes there is plenty more to come from the in-form 23-year-old. “I think he is on a tremendous level this season,” the Portuguese said. “(He is) really enjoying his football, now playing as a striker. When you are able to make a player feel comfortable things can only get better and it is down to him and his motivation and also what the team wants to achieve, they create things for him.

Team-mates and pundits alike have also heaped praise on Bale.

Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt told BBC Radio 5 live: “If you look at Gareth Bale’s performances over this last couple of seasons, they have been outstanding. When he is in the form that he is in at the moment, he is unstoppable. Whenever you look at a player you are playing against, you look at their weaknesses. But however much you look at him, Gareth doesn’t seem to have any. With the performances he is putting in, he has to be judged as one of the best in the world at the moment.”

Spurs midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson has sung similar praises: “I don’t know how many goals he’s scored now but they’re all spectacular,” he said.

Almost inevitably Bale’s form has led to reports that the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona are lining up big-money bids for the flying Welshman. Villas-Boas recently stated that selling Bale would be the equivalent to Barcelona or Real Madrid selling Lionel Messi or Ronaldo.

The Southampton Academy graduate signed a new long-term contract at White Hart Lane in the summer but in the modern-day game that does not guarantee he will remain at the club.

Former Chelsea boss Villas-Boas knows his chances of keeping hold of his prized asset will be significantly increased if Spurs are in the Champions League next season.

“I think (qualifying will secure his future at Spurs). This is where most of the clubs want to be, and where most of the players want to play,” said Villas-Boas. “Gareth's future is intimately related to the objectives that we achieve for the season. Hopefully qualifying for the Champions League means we can attract better players and continue to hold on to our best players.”

Spurs are in great shape to achieve that objective and if Bale maintains his current form then a second-placed finish is not out of the question.

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