In the world of footballing stardom, there is the ‘Messi-Ronaldo’ axis first and then there are others, such is the gulf in class between the former and the latter group.
No wonder then that the Press and Electronic media are fervently in the lookout for the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. At a certain level, this is more of a desperate tactic to sell more papers or gather more viewership as neither Messi nor Ronaldo have crossed the age of 30 to warrant a ‘next’ avatar.
However, his recent performances have made Gareth Bale as the next best to the two reigning superstars according to European media, largely the British media.
The 23-year old Wales international deserves such attention though in light of his dazzling form this season. To objectively see what Bale brings to the table as an individual, we don’t need to look for hyperboles. Great on and off the ball pace, pin point crossing, tremendous free-kick taking ability and positional flexibility make him the marquee player in the Tottenham stable.
What seems lacking at present; however, are good dribbling skills and near-flawless distribution – the elements that Messi and Ronaldo display day in and day out. Such qualities are necessary conditions to propel any good footballer into a great footballer, and we have to see if Bale makes that transition in the days to come.
It also cannot be denied that for someone who used to be a specialist left-back till some time back, Bale has had a steep learning curve since his transition to more of a winger or a roving attacking midfielder. Bale’s abilities with the ball are typical of that of a wide man and he is at his dangerous best when these are replicated in the middle of the pitch when more people are defending your move.
Precisely that’s what Bale has been doing this season and if this becomes a continuous practice rather than a flash in the pan, very soon we will see European giants quoting figures north of £50m or above to acquire Bale.
Football pundits have been fulsome in their praise for Bale. While former and present manager of Spurs, Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas has ushered high praises on Bale, Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has given his studied opinion by saying as quoted in the press:
“Bale has the potential to develop and become the players that you compare him to. However, Messi has won two or three Champions League, a few championships, scored 95 goals in a year, so let’s not go too quick.”
Whether going gaga or expressing cautious optimism, the general line has been that Bale has ‘arrived’ and things are pretty much in his hand regarding his development from a really good player to a legend.
As a postscript, if anyone has followed Totenham’s last couple of games, the Welshman has already developed a deadly free-kick which has taken him one step forward towards a higher level of stardom!