Gareth Bale became a father for the first time recently but in a lot of ways he should probably be used to the added responsibility – not to mention the sensation of his world changing overnight. Since that iconic performance against Inter Milan in the 2010 UEFA Champions League at the San Siro where in just ninety minutes he transformed himself into one of Europe’s most sought-after superstars, the Welshman has shouldered more and more responsibility for Spurs.
Bought in 2007 from Southampton as a left back with a knack for exquisite set pieces and galloping dashes up and down the touchline, Bale has recently been filling in as a central midfielder in the absence of the recently departed Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart. It’s not his first reinvention, having been ushered into a more attacking role on the wing by former coach Harry Redknapp over the previous two seasons, but it’s certainly his most dramatic – and telling of a new, more mature player.
There’s an argument to be made that the 23-year-old has always had his head firmly screwed on his shoulders and that’s true – after all, when the likes of Real Madrid, Inter and Barcelona all enquired as to his availability following his feats in 2010-11, he was level-headed enough to sense he was better off for now at a club where he was near-guaranteed first team football and more able to develop his talents. But on the pitch, his displays this season have pointed to a more well-rounded player who is adapting to life as one of the most tightly marked players in the Premier League.
“Since people have been double marking and triple marking me, it is something I have had to bring into my game,” he told reporters late last year. “I’m happy to contribute and just be wherever the boss needs me.” This readiness to buckle down for the team in whatever position coach Andre Villas-Boas most needs him is part and parcel of the Welshman’s coming of age – he’s as happy doing the gritty work of a centre mid as he is getting the White Hart Lane faithful on their feet by speeding past defenders.
Already this season Bale, now Spurs’ chief creative player, has engineered the club’s first win at Old Trafford in 23 years (before he was born), recorded four goals and three assists, has a shots to goals ratio of 8.8 and last month scored twice to give Wales their first win under new manager Chris Coleman against Scotland.
Echoing Cristiano Ronaldo who in his coming of age season at Manchester United in 2007-08 played in numerous different positions, the Welshman has been deployed as a playmaker, on the wing and in a deeper lying role at various times so far in 2012-13. Harry Redknapp claims the new Bale is every bit as good as Ronaldo and Leo Messi. "He's almost unplayable when he's on his game. He is a genuine world-class player. There's nobody he couldn't play for. He'd improve any team.”
Spurs, who face champions Manchester City in what promises to be an intriguing tie this weekend, will be hoping their Welsh wonder is going nowhere.
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