The Best British Player Ever? It's Time To Put Some Respect On Gareth Bale's Name

The Welsh wizard is 32 today and ought to be lauded more readily for his achievements
16:15, 16 Jul 2021

Happy birthday to Gareth Bale.

At 32, the Welshman can boast a career that others can only dream of.

Two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, and a 2013 trio of PFA Young Footballer of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season already make him one of the finer players of his generation.

Add to that the small matter of four Champions League medals, and there is a strong case to be made for Bale being named as the greatest British player of all time.

It’s not as if he made up the numbers in those finals. In 2014, with the scores locked at 1-1 against city rivals Atletico Madrid and just 10 minutes of extra time remaining, Bale popped up at the back post to head Carlo Ancelotti’s men in front and spearhead a 4-1 victory for Los Blancos.

Four years on, he scored arguably the greatest goal in Champions League history. What’s more, he once again saved his heroics for the final, this time against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

The sides were again level at 1-1, and, just three minutes after being introduced, the Wales captain fired a frankly ludicrous overhead kick into the top corner of Loris Karius’ net.

His later 30-yard strike, courtesy of a howler from the Liverpool shot-stopper, sealed the victory for Madrid and made it 13 Champions League trophies for the Spanish giants.

Only former Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo has managed more than Bale’s three strikes in Europe’s biggest game, and he has appeared in six finals compared to the Welshman’s four.

BALE'S SENSATIONAL GOAL AGAINST BARCELONA WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
BALE'S SENSATIONAL GOAL AGAINST BARCELONA WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

Rarely discussed as one of the best ever British players, it is safe to say that the former Tottenham Hotspur man doesn’t get the credit he deserves. For us, he simply has to be in the conversation, which is an achievement in itself considering how his career at White Hart Lane started.

Signed from Southampton for £5m in 2007 after making his club and country debuts at just 16, he wasn’t on the winning side once in his first 24 league matches for Spurs in a run that stretched from August 2007 to September 2009.

Harry Redknapp somewhat wisely put an end to that unwanted record when introducing Bale whilst 5-0 up against Burnley, and his career exploded into life from then on.

A monumental 31 goals for club and country in the 2012-13 season saw him sweep up the aforementioned trio of awards, and Madrid parted with a then-world-record transfer fee of £85m to end his six-year stay in London.

He announced himself to the Bernabeu faithful in style with a virtuoso Copa del Rey final performance which saw the headlines stolen from Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, knocking the ball beyond Marc Barta on the touchline by the halfway mark before sprinting into the area and slotting past Jose Manuel Pinto.

He was the new superstar in the Spanish capital, and despite 105 goals in 251 appearances, that tag is possibly the reason why a Madrid crowd loyal to a reportedly-threatened Ronaldo never truly took to Bale.

Or it could have been the beaming smile on his face while pictured celebrating Euro 2020 qualification for Wales after victory over Hungary. That in itself seems perfectly understandable, but the fact that he was stood holding a banner that read ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid.’ didn’t go down well at all back with his employers.

BALE'S BANNER FAUX PAS WON HIM FEW FANS IN MADRID
BALE'S BANNER FAUX PAS WON HIM FEW FANS IN MADRID

His public spat with former Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane did little to strengthen his relationship with Los Blancos supporters, while his acceptance of spending more time on the golf course than on the Bernabeu turf seemingly fractured it beyond repair.

At club level at least, Bale simply doesn’t get the credit he deserves, with not one British player managing more than his four Champions League trophies.

The same cannot be said for his Wales career. He was integral to The Dragons famously reaching the semi-final stage at Euro 2016, scoring three goals along the way, including the opener against England in the group stage.

He showed glimpses of brilliance when returning to Spurs last season on loan, but it is safe to say that his career has, if not stalled, then at least slowed down significantly in recent years.

One hopes that rumours of retirement at the age of 32 prove to be unfabricated, as a player who has given so much to the sport deserves to go out on his terms.

No matter what he decides, as the cool kids on social media now claim, it is time to start putting some respect on his name.

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