Why Arsenal, Liverpool & Chelsea Fans Should Cherish Tottenham's Bale While He's Still Here...
Tottenham Hotspur’s game against Lyon in the Europa League was by and large a scrappy affair. Both teams played well in spurts, though neither showed any consistency. Spurs dominated for large periods in the first half, while Lyon for the first 20 minutes of the second half were excellent, their pressing unsettling a Spurs side whose bodies were on the pitch but whose minds were seemingly still in the dressing room.
In a game that lacked quality, it had three remarkable goals to show for it. Lyon’s Samuel Umtitu, a defender, not only had a name to make the casual fan titter but scored a stunning goal that as the cliché goes was ‘worthy of winning’ any cup tie. It was a beautifully pure strike, clean as a whistle off the laces, that had half of Twitter quoting Alan Partridge.
The other two goals were what will grab the headlines, and deservedly so. It’s been 18 days since anyone other than Gareth Bale scored for Spurs. In that time, Spurs have three wins and a draw. The years of watching Jermaine Jenas, Younes Kaboul and Jermain Defoe slam free kicks into advertising hoarders, opposing defenders and the odd fan in the stands are now well worth the suffering for Spurs supporters.
Bale’s brace against Lyon were due to two splendid free kicks, both scored in true Ronaldo Style. Not only has he perfected the upright, self-conscious pre-free kick stance, he’s also now worked out how to get a football over a wall, dip viciously, then land with enough spin on the ball to put to shame many a test match spin bowler.
His free kicks came at the end of each half, both coming at times when Spurs were increasingly desperate for goals. At the end of the first half, with Bale having missed a sitter to give his team the lead, he made amends with the aforementioned stunning free kick. His second, the winner, coming in injury time was pure theatre.
With his team needing a goal to head to the Stade de Gerland with a lead, and him despite his goal having performed indifferently up to that point, he came up with a strike even better than his first. The timing and manner of the goal was that of a top level player, and also shows how Spurs late in games are becoming an irrepressible force. Against Manchester United, Norwich, Newcastle and now Lyon, late goals have been critical. It may be a sign Tottenham Hotspur are not doing enough in the first half of games, but it also shows a spirit, belief and level of fitness most teams can only dream of.
Is Bale as good as Cristiano Ronaldo? Yes. When it comes to applying hair gel. On the pitch, it is nonsense to compare a genuinely great player like Ronaldo with Bale, an enormously talented player but as of now still only a good one in a superb run of form. It was only a few weeks ago that Bale was seen to have slightly underwhelmed this season, having not adapted as quickly as wing twin Aaron Lennon to Andre Villas-Boas’ style of play.
He needs to consistently play on his current, almost Messianic level for more than four games if he’s to be seriously judged with Ronaldo. And even if Bale gets as good as his Portuguese idol, which is eminently possible given time, Lionel Messi will continue to chalk up hat tricks in La Liga as easily as Homer Simpson polishes off a pork chop.
But to compare him to those two is to take all the fun out of everything. Bale is currently playing sensationally, and with his future always going to be in doubt when he plays above the level of his club, we should enjoy his presence in the Premier League while it lasts. The way he not only runs but powers his way past defenders is a joy to watch, while his goals have been almost Le Tissier-esque in their unstinting brilliance.
However cynical people are about football, seeing a fine young footballer continually fire shots past goalkeepers from distance can never fail to warm the cockles. For his sake, and also for football’s, we can only hope he spends the best years of his career thrilling fans around the world with his brilliance on the pitch, and that he doesn’t spent multiple seasons sitting in luxurious dugouts in Madrid or Barcelona, a fate that Luka Modric, who left Spurs in the summer after longing for a move to richer rivals, may well be destined for.
Bale may not be playing in England for much longer. Let’s enjoy him while it lasts.
Sadly, the game for the viewers at home was tarnished due to some dreadful, though not especially surprising sexism from ITV commentators Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, the pair of them joking about female spectators going to the game like the dreadful chauvinistic, Daily Mail reading xenophobes they quite possibly are. Not only were gags about men dragging their girlfriends to a football match rather than ‘the opera’ hideously sexist, they were awfully unfunny too.
It seems as if the chummy, alpha-male atmosphere Keys and Gray revelled in for so long still exists. The culture of middle aged fogies who know nothing about any player not in the Premiership but could give you song and verse on their golf games if prompted, dominating football commentary and punditry in this country, is far from being banished. Having white, middle aged men in almost sole possession of football discussion in the media, especially on TV and radio, is something that needs to change. It’s time for the casual misogynists who haven’t come up with an interesting opinion on football in twenty years, to be disposed of and replaced.
Preferably by women, who would show up these people up for the greasy rats that they are.