In the last two years, Gareth Bale has gone from being an exciting new prospect to a football superstar.
From a player laughed at for making 24 appearances in the Premier League for Tottenham without being on the winning side, to 2011′s PFA Player Of The Year, Bale has transformed himself from a free kick taking left back into a talented, offensive all rounder, who’s capable of both defending and attacking, and a highly sought after player across Europe, with the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid chasing his signature last summer.
Notching over 10 goals in each of his last two seasons at White Hart Lane, Bale launched himself into prominence with a two superb displays against Inter Milan in the Champions League in 2010. With three goals and two assists over the two games, and one of the best right backs in the world in Maicon left totally embarrassed and exhausted it was clear that the Welshman was here to make a mark on both European and British soil.
But more and more, controversy has reared it’s head to blight the young man’s career.
This time it’s a war of words over a tackle in a pre-season friendly.
On Saturday 28th July, Liverpool and Tottenham met for a pre-season friendly in Baltimore, USA, which played out 0-0. Charlie Adam fouled Bale in the 18th minute when the Welshman drifted past him. Bale played out the rest of the first half before going off, but that wasn’t the end of it.
There are few instances in football where one player criticises another professional, but Bale has lashed out at Adam, calling him a “Coward” and intimating that the Scot had deliberately set out to hurt him.
“He’s obviously come for me twice now – and he’s got me twice,” Bale said.
“From what I’ve seen of him on the pitch, I think he’s a bit of a coward.
“There are pictures on the internet of what he did before when he snapped all my ankle ligaments.
“I was out for three months that time and one player told me he went out to do the same thing to me again.
“It’s flattering when players try to take you out in a game but when it threatens your career, it becomes more serious than that.
“I would have understood if it had it been a slightly mistimed tackle, even though it was just a friendly. But the ball was 10 yards past him already and was nowhere near him when he came through my ankle.
“It’s unsportsmanlike and I don’t think any player should be like that. That’s what kind of person he is like – he’s done it before.”
Strong words after a mistimed tackle in a friendly.
Not just an assault on Adam’s tackling ability, but also a personal attack on the Liverpool midfielder’s character that does Bale absolutely no favours at all.
In the aftermath of the match, Bale’s manager, Andres Villas-Boas also complained about the challenge, saying that Adam should apologise to the Welsh winger for a poor challenge.
But this would not heal Bale’s wounds either.
“I’ve had no apology from him and I don’t really want one from him to be honest. I’m not going to accept his apology.” he said.
Upon seeing the challenge, few could agree that it was in fact malicious. Although it must have caused Bale pain, he did play on throughout the half. Adam has picked up yellow cards fairly regularly throughout his career, but few would describe him as a dirty player. He is simple lacking pace and timing when it comes to his defensive duties, and it was a simple case of arriving too late when he bought down Bale.
It was a poor, lazy challenge, yes. But the comments from Bale, his manager, and now Spurs right back Kyle Walker, who suggested Adam was jealous of the Welshman’s ability, you would expect to have seen a horror tackle.
If Bale has a problem with the challenge, he should talk to the club and consider a complaint to the FA. Calling another professional a coward and insulting his character in an interview is not only hypocritical, but will not solve anything. Despite what Bale may think of Adam, he simply makes himself look both unprofessional, classless and petty with his comments.
And Bale has shown previously in his career that when he opens his mouth, he talks himself into a reputation he doesn’t want.
“If people want to say I’m diving they can, but at the end of the day I’m trying to get out of the way and save myself and my career. You’ve just got to try to be a bit clever about it. I’ve got a few people sent off this year by doing that.”
The words of Bale in March of last year, in an interview where he not only admitted to diving, but was almost bragging about how he had got players sent off.
“When you have got people flying in at you all the time, it’s not really diving, you’re just trying to get out of the way of the challenges. If you stand there you’re going to get a whack. At the end of the day I would rather dive than get hurt.” He added.
But if it is just a case of getting out of the way, then there is no need to stay down, roll around and put on a agonised facial expression.
Searching the internet for videos of Gareth Bale diving, results come in thick and fast. The talented winger is fast picking up a reputation that could ruin all the footballing ability he has and hard work he’s put in.
A regularity of falling to the floor untouched, a fair few mini-strops on the pitch, and now a very public and distasteful feud with Charlie Adam, and Bale is starting to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
With the right application and attitude, Gareth Bale could be one of the best players in Europe. But first he has to remember what it felt like to be on the bench, unfavoured by his manager and unheard of by most football fans.
Many great talents before him have been remembered not for their ability, but their theatrics on the field, and comments off it. If Bale isn’t careful, he could become one of them.
Follow me on Twitter @matt_volpi for football news and views.
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