I REMEMBER being told a few years ago by Brian Flynn, the Wales Under-21 coach, about a player he had called Gareth Bale. He said this lad had five gears, maybe even six, although the most people usually saw was third. Well last night we all saw Bale firing on all cylinders.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do what he did for Tottenham last night – he was that good. Against any Champions League opponent that would have been outstanding, but against Brazil right-back Maicon, a guy I have never seen embarrassed before by anyone, it was phenomenal.
He has athleticism, confidence and ability on the ball and has now proved to himself he is a world-class player capable of winning games at the highest level. Spurs were solid all over last night, but without him they wouldn’t have played like they did.
I particularly like his neatness and his football brain. He has superb awareness of opportunities and space, switches from left foot to right, and showed that his game is not just about kicking it 20 yards and running. Aaron Lennon, on the other flank, tried that against Inter’s left-back Cristian Chivu but without anywhere near as much success.
What was so impressive was that he didn’t have to dash all over the pitch looking for the ball in different positions. He hugged the left wing and Inter knew exactly where he was going to be – they just couldn’t do anything to stop him.
It amazes me how far and fast he can run, and for how long, and that might be where he needs managing by Harry Redknapp, to prevent him burning out over a long season. His confidence might also be soaring now but he is bound to have an off day, so Redknapp will be key there too.
What does the future hold for Bale? Inter coach Rafael Benitez may well rate him, and there would be no shortage of interested clubs both at home and in Europe, but I can only see him joining Barcelona or Real Madrid. A player couldn’t go wrong by joining, say, Manchester United, but the Spanish giants would surely be keen, and who doesn’t want to play for the most famous clubs in the world?
For now, though, he is best off at Tottenham. As long as they are playing at Champions League level I think it would be premature for him to leave. He is only 21 and I think it would be sensible for him to get another season or two of consistent performances under his belt.
Redknapp said at the start of the season that Spurs weren’t far off the top sides and I admit I doubted that, but two key things have happened for them: Bale’s explosion in form and the signing of Rafael van der Vaart (left). With that kind of pace they’ll hurt anyone, and I fancy them to retain their top four place while taking a good shot at the Champions League.