The New Special One: Gareth Bale

Inter Milan want to splash £40 million all over Spurs for young Gareth Bale this summer. A Spurs fan explains why he's worth the moolah.
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Everyone wants a piece of Gareth Frank Bale. He’s the new Messi/Ronaldo/Roberto Carlos, depending upon which pundit or former player you consult. Inter want him, Barcelona want him, Real want him, and you’d be bloody surprised if West Ham didn’t want him too, though they’re yet to throw their woolly hat, 12 pence in change and Avram Grant’s droopy chops into the ring.

Manchester United reportedly wanted him off us last season, but that was shortly before we played them away, and feasibly involved Ferguson’s cunning mind games. As it happened we lost easily, so Sir Alex could have calmed his tumbling thoughts at lights-out, and chatted politely instead to Lady F.

You were warned. This, from my Sabotage Spurs season preview:

Which player should we look out for? Bale will continue to be sensational down the left – goals and assists galore.

Yet his is a very recent canonisation.

Bale joined us from Southampton, aged 17, in May 2007, while the great Martin Jol was still padding out his blue tracksuit. He cost £6 million and came with glowing schoolboy reports. The sort of reports Theo Walcott, with whom he roomed at the Saints, took to Arsenal. Bale promised precocious talent, goal-scoring ability, dead-ball specialism and pace. Primarily pace. In his early teens, he was running the 100m in 11.4.

Gareth headed straight for the injury table. Not even that quickly.

That first season, we caught mere glimpses of his talent. He scored in his second game, away at Fulham, having provided Kaboul’s assist from his corner. Next, against Arsenal at the Lane, he opened the scoring with a stunning free kick around the wall and inside Almunia’s near post. (Naturally, we lost that 3-1.)

Harry recalled Sir Alex saying to him: “You can’t pick him, he’s jinxed” – and that definitely wasn’t mind games.

The chant began: “Bale! Bale! Bale!” Though it won no Ivor Novellos, we failed to care.

Soon after that he was back on the injury table. In December, he broke his foot against Birmingham.

Subsequently we saw him only sporadically, and there came a time when we wished we didn’t. In his first 24 appearances for Spurs, Bale was never once on the winning side, even during Harry Redknapp’s incredible remoulding of the side from monkeys with Play-doh to Champions League combatants.

Harry recalled Sir Alex saying to him: “You can’t pick him, he’s jinxed” – and that definitely wasn’t mind games.

As late as 26 September last year, in the 85th minute, Bale was thrown on as a sub while we were mauling Burnley 4-0. Even then, a collective gasp rose from the Lane. We won 5-0 and Gareth Bale never looked back.

The games against Inter were his showcase. Watch the highlights. That first goal at 4-0 down is staggering: a 68-yard run past the cream of Europe – “Taxi for Maicon!” – with that deceptive loping gate, all focus and awareness, followed by a finish that sends a ‘kaboom’ around the San Siro. Aaron Lennon looks quick with his dinky strides; Bale just is quick. And he can run forever. If he were a dog, you wouldn’t want the Bionic Man throwing him a stick. You’d never see the fucker again.

It’s not just that – or his dead-ball ability, or his Delap-style long throws, or his modest demeanour, or his professionalism (he doesn’t drink, hates the taste) – it’s his final ball. Spurs are shit at final balls. We’re like pensioners kicking the bucket. Not Bale. The way those passes curve, like ladies’ sides, just out of reach of the keeper, for Crouch and Pav to tap effortlessly in.

Harry is owed a lion’s share of the credit. He recalled: “[Bale] seemed to go down injured so easily even in training that it got to the point where I told our physios not to bother treating him, so he would get up and run it off. I felt he had to get tougher and grow up a bit, and I think he knew it too. It was obvious that he could play, though, it just needed to come out." Nice understatement.

But before we get carried away… I was at the Lane for our toothless draw with Sunderland, and though Bale had his moments, he also made some bad decisions, twice crossing – poorly – when the goal was at his mercy.

He’s still only 21, with much to learn. Frankly, Barca/Inter/Real – he’s crap. Honest.

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