THE devastating form of winger Gareth Bale has made the 23-year-old favourite for this season’s PFA Player of the Year award with the bookmakers and team-mate Jermain Defoe believes a happy home life has been key to the Welshman’s success.
Bale has hit 16 Premier League goals this season including seven in his last five outings, earning Spurs 13 precious points in the process.
In October, Bale became a father for the first time with the birth of daughter Alba Violet – whose initials, like those of Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas, spell AVB – and Defoe, whose son Joshua-James was born last month, believes the newest arrival to the Bale family is helping his form on the pitch.
“Gareth has little AVB and he loves it,” said Defoe.
“You can tell that with the way he’s playing. He’s a happy person, with no worries. He’s got his daughter and that stability in your life is important as a professional. I do think it helps.”
Two seasons ago Bale announced himself on the European stage in spectacular style.
He hit a hat-trick against tonight’s Europa League opponents Inter Milan in the San Siro and inspired Spurs to a 3-1 victory in the return game at White Hart Lane, laying on goals for Roman Pavlychenko and Peter Crouch, and gave Brazil right-back Maicon one of the most torrid evenings of his career.
His pace, power and goal record have drawn comparisons with Real Madrid’s Portuguese superstar Ronaldo and Defoe believes Bale is just as good.
“When he [Ronaldo] was at [Manchester] United he was a natural winger for the first couple of seasons and had more assists than goals,” said Defoe. “Then he just totally changed his game to scoring goals, he’s become a goalscoring machine.
“Gareth’s done exactly the same. Beforehand he was a natural winger, he used to beat players and cross the ball in. Now he’s changed his game and realised he’s a great finisher.
“When things aren’t going well in a game he can get the ball, beat two players and score, he’s that special. The amount of goals that he’s scored is fantastic.”
Inter visit north London tonight for the first time since that 3-1 victory in November 2010. Their manager Andrea Stramaccioni will hope to devise a better plan to contain the ex-Southampton man than then-Inter boss Rafael Benitez could concoct.
But Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas believes Bale is even better now and refuted suggestions his prize asset may need a rest having played 39 games this season.
“We’re several years on from when he played against Inter and I think he’s a different player now,” said Villas-Boas. “He’s a bigger player, more complete.
“He doesn’t need a rest, he’s fine. What Tottenham have shown this season contradicts science, or at least science fiction, that there is enough rest time between a Sunday game and a Thursday game.”
THE RISE OF BALE
IN 2010 Gareth Bale was emerging as one of the most exciting British players in the Premier League.
He hit three goals in the final six matches of the 2009-10 season, including strikes against London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, to help Tottenham qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1961 and signed a new four-year contract.
The following season got off to a decent start too as Bale bagged a brace in a 2-1 win at Stoke and a late strike in the 4-1 victory over Dutch team FC Twente in the Champions League at White Hart Lane.
Then came that unforgettable night in the San Siro...
Wednesday 20 October 2010: Backed by thousands of travelling supporters from London, Spurs made a disasterous start away to Inter Milan. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was sent off and after conceding three times in the first 14 minutes, Spurs trailed 4-0 at half-time.
But Bale took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, terrorising Brazil right-back Maicon, and netted a stunning hat-trick to restore some respectability.
Tuesday 2 November 2010: Two weeks on and Bale was at his best once more to inspire Spurs to a 3-1 victory against Inter in the return Champions League group match.
The Welshman laid on goals for strikers Roman Pavlychenko and Peter Crouch and announced himself on the European stage.
Season 2010-11: Spurs were eventually eliminated from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage to Read Madrid, losing 5-0 on aggregate.
Harry Redknapp’s team missed out on Champions League qualification with a fifth place finish in the Premier League, however Bale ended the season with 12 goals for club and country and was named PFA Player of the Year. He signed another new four-year contract with Tottenham.
Season 2011-12: Bale was Tottenham’s star once again with 12 goals for the club to help them finish fourth in the Premier League.
He was named in European football governing body Uefa’s team of the year for 2011 and pen a one-year contract extension.
Season 2012-13: Under new Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas Bale has transformed from a left-winger to adopting a more central role and has proved devastating in front of goal.
Bale has scored 24 goals in 39 appearances for club and country and has emerged as the favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year award for the second time in his career.