The start of the transformation of Gareth Bale from a gangly teenager who did not play on the winning side in his first 24 Premier League matches for Tottenham Hotspur to the world’s most expensive player can be pin-pointed to an exact place and time. Also Read: Gareth Bale to Real Madrid – A dream move?
On Oct. 20,2010,Spurs were losing 4-0 at halftime to European champions Inter Milan in a Champions League group stage match at the San Siro before Bale hauled them back into contention with a truly remarkable second-half hat-trick.
The first two goals were almost identical,scored with searing angled left-foot drives after powerful runs that left the Inter defence and especially Brazilian defender Maicon trailing in his wake.
The third was a hard low shot from a more central position that also left Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar nowhere and although Spurs lost the game,Bale’s stunning performance brought him to the attention of every major club in Europe. More goals,more running and 100 million euros ($131.86 million) later,the richest of the lot,Real Madrid,has bought him.
Spurs recovered from that defeat to top their group and went on to reach the quarter-finals of their only Champions League campaign to date,and the fact the north London club have,albeit narrowly,missed out on a return to the competition in the two seasons since is one of the reasons Bale has left them. Regarded by many as the third best player in the world after Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and his new Real Madrid team mate Cristiano Ronaldo,Bale,who was voted Footballer of the Year by journalists and Player of the Year by his peers last season,needs to be playing at the highest level.
He showed plenty of potential as a youngster,making his debut for Southampton aged 16 years and 275 days in 2006 and becoming the youngest player to represent Wales a month later. He ended up signing for Spurs for an initial 5 million pounds ($7.73 million) in 2007.
It took him 24 league games over the next two years to be on the winning side,the jinx ending when then-manager Harry Redknapp brought him on for the last five minutes of a game against Burnley in September 2009 with Spurs already 5-0 ahead. Tottenham finished fourth at the end of that season and qualified for the Champions League but the fact they have since failed to reach the elite competition since is at the heart of his departure Spurs.
They missed out by one point last season and were denied a place the previous year,despite finishing fourth,when Chelsea lifted the European Cup. Bale always gave the impression he was happy at Spurs. Clearly though,the amount offered by Real,the challenge to raise his game to further,as well as a significant improvement in his earnings, proved irresistible.
Real’s world record outlay has seen them sign a player with boundless stamina,tremendous pace,ball control and the ability to find the net from distance with some spectacular goals. Coach Carlo Ancelotti already has Ronaldo,Mesut Ozil,Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria in attack as well as Isco,who arrived this summer from Malaga.
Former World Player of the Year Kaka is not exactly a spent force either. Ancelotti could well experiment with Ronaldo as a central striker,leaving Bale to play in any number of forward roles.
It was also at Tottenham where the transformation from a left back to midfielder to forward took place. Bale always looked dangerous on the left side of the middle four,but he went up a further gear when he began to play regularly in a more central role last season. His very last act at White Hart Lane was to score the winning goal from outside the penalty area against Sunderland in the last minute of the last game of the season in a 1-0 win.
Footballs record deals,a timeline
2013: Gareth Bale,Tottenham
Hotspurs to Real Madrid (GBP 86
2009: Cristiano Ronaldo,Manchester United to Real Madrid (GBP 80 million)
2009: Kaka,AC Milan to Real Madrid (GBP 56 million)
2001: Zinedine Zidane,Juventus to Real Madrid (GBP 46 million)
2000: Luis Figo,Barcelona to Real Madrid (GBP 37 million)
*Bale joined Southampton and made his professional debut aged 16 years and 275 days against Millwall in the Championship (second tier) in 2006.
*He became Wales’s youngest ever player when he made his full international debut as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago in May 2006.
* He made his first international start later that year and scored his first international goal against Slovakia in a European championship qualifier.
* After making 45 appearances for Southampton and scoring five goals,Bale completed a move to Tottenham Hotspur for an initial fee of 5 million pounds ($7.63 million) in the close season of 2007.
* A stunning Champions League hat-trick against Inter Milan at the San Siro in October 2010 marked him out as one of Europe’s top talents and that reputation was enhanced further after a memorable display in the return leg at White Hart Lane.
* Current Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas moved him into a central attacking position and this brought about a goal glut with Bale netting 26 times in 44 matches in the English Premier League.