Gareth Bale is quickly establishing himself as the sweetheart of English football. In his two appearances against the European champions Inter Milan, he has amassed three goals, two assists, two man of the match performances, and has more than doubled his transfer valuation. So good have his showings been that the mention of his name on Tuesday night was almost always followed with the words “is world-class”.
Harry Redknapp rightly was full of praise for his left winger. “He’s against a right-back who is rated as the best right-back in the world and what he’s done to him over the last two games is amazing.” Naturally that would lead some to believe Bale to be the best left winger in the world. Yet in the Premier League this season Bale hasn’t always had the better of those he’s faced. Manchester United and Rafael Da Silva managed to restrict Bale to only one notable chance at Old Trafford, the young Brazilian forcing him inside onto his weaker right foot and making him pull his shot wide. In fact, although Bale has been ever-present for spurs this campaign he has only found the net in one of their ten matches, scoring twice against Stoke City.
But goals are not what Bale’s game is all about, he ran rings around the Inter defenders, and the assist for Pavlyuchenko’s goal highlighted all that is brilliant about the Welshman’s game. It was nearing the end of the game, yet Bale was still able to showcase his blistering pace and tremendous stamina. He realizes he doesn’t need to perform step-over after step-over to beat his man, instead he knocked the ball past the Inter defenders safe in the knowledge that he would be the one to latch onto it. After breaking free down the flank he centered the ball perfectly, as he had done twice already in the night, leaving the easiest of finishes for Pavlyuchenko to wrap up the victory. Yet in the Premier League he has only managed to supply one assist.
Bale certainly looked like a world beater at White Hart Lane on Tuesday, and it’s hard to think of a team he wouldn’t benefit when he is in top form, but it is important not to get carried away. Leo Messi has 41 goals in his last 42 La Liga appearances, Cristiano Ronaldo has 38 in 38. These of course are extreme examples, but they are the records of the last two world player’s of the year. It surely must be clear to see that Bale is not at their level yet. If we look at this season’s Premier League then Chelsea’s Malouda with 7 goals sticks out as perhaps the best midfielder so far, or maybe Manchester United’s Nani with 4 goals and 8 assists. Bale was brilliant against Inter, he is a tremendous talent and a breath of fresh air, Redknapp has spoke of how when he let Bale have some time off to go on holiday and refresh he went back to his mum’s house in Cardiff, but he is not yet world class, at least not on a consistent basis.
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