When the Spanish football superstar signed for Real Madrid in 2013, he was heralded as one of the best players on Earth. Five years later and with a haul of trophies that includes three Champions Leagues and two European Cups, Gareth Bale is still capable to turn heads with his displays at both ends of the pitch.
“Gareth Bale: The real player and man by those who know him best” is a book about the life of Gareth Bale. It was written by those who knew him best in his club, Real Madrid, and in his country, Wales.
In Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Belarus in Cardiff, Gareth Bale is expected to receive his 100th cap for Wales.
|Cardiff City Stadium is the venue for this match. Saturday, November 13th Start time is 19:45 GMT.
|Radio Wales and Radio Cymru will provide live commentary, as well as live text and score updates on the Sport website and app.
Gareth Bale is on the brink of joining a limited group of Wales international footballers.
If he makes his 100th appearance for Wales in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Belarus in Cardiff, he will follow in the footsteps of centurions Jess Fishlock, Sophie Ingle, Loren Dykes, and Chris Gunter.
It will be another another significant achievement for a Welsh sports legend with really worldwide acclaim.
Bale’s talent was soon seen at Southampton, leading Spurs to spend up to £10 million for him in 2007. Bale was a former student of Whitchurch High School in Cardiff and a teenager with Cardiff Civil Service.
Bale became a Real Madrid ‘Galactico’ in September 2013 after the Spanish giants paid a world record £85 million for his services.
Since then, he has won four Champions League championships, two La Liga titles, a Copa Del Rey, three Club World Cup medals, and twice assisted Real in winning the European Super Cup.
At the age of 16 years 315 days, John Toshack became Wales’ youngest debutant when he featured in a 2-1 friendly victory against Trinidad & Tobago in Graz in 2006.
Bale has consistently delivered when his nation has needed him.
His seven goals in qualification drove Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, their first major event final in 58 years.
With a hat-trick against China in 2018, he set a new record of 36 goals, surpassing Ian Rush’s old mark of 28.
Bale is Wales’ captain, leader, and talisman, and he wants to lead his country to the 2022 World Cup finals.
As Bale approaches his milestone, his fellow former Whitchurch High School student Geraint Thomas, co-centurions Gunter – his long-time teammate – and Ingle, former Wales striker Rob Earnshaw, and Toshack, who previously coached Real Madrid, share their views and observations with Sport Wales.
Former Wales striker Rob Earnshaw (58 caps, 16 goals)
“I recall the first thing I remember about Gareth’s debut being a few days before the game. We all went out to lunch as a group, and the newcomers had to go up and perform a song in front of the rest of the group.
“They stood up one by one, apprehensive because they had to sing. I’m not sure what Gareth sung, but it wasn’t very good! His pitching abilities and talent were unquestionably superior than his voice.
“When he first joined the team, he was pretty bashful. But it wasn’t until we went onto the field and handed him the ball that I realized, ‘he’s got a little something here.’
“It’s the way they move, the speed with which they think, how clean their touch is, and how their technique shows through with great players.” His awareness, as well as his touch and technique, were all on spot.
Hennessey describes Bale as “simply fantastic.”
“Give him the ball, and he’ll start dribbling, and you’ll see what we’ve seen over the years – dribbling past players with speed and precision.”
“I believed he had a little bit after the first few of training sessions, but you’re still wary because he’s a young kid, and you wonder, ‘Can they carry it into a game?’”
“I felt he was going to be a fantastic player when we faced Trinidad and Tobago and he came on.” We saw the same things in the game that we had seen in the training sessions, and he was much more confident.
“When young athletes first go onto the field, they are often frightened, thinking about the fans and the opponents they will face. Gareth had not considered that possibility. ‘Give me the ball, I’m going to dribble, I’m going to sprint,’ he said. This is the location where I wish to be.’
“He ran down the left flank afterwards and dragged the it back for me to score, which is his first assist for Wales.”
“It’s incredible to achieve 100 caps. It’s the nicest feeling in the world when you obtain a national team cap, stand up for the national anthem, and put on the jersey. It takes a unique kind of dedication to keep doing it till you are 100.
“In Gareth’s instance, he has shown consistency and durability. He’s been a superstar, scoring goals and having a significant effect on several occasions. It’s been a privilege to be able to observe a world-class talent up up and personal, on my own team. That was very great.
“I’d love for Gareth to play in a World Cup, and I’m sure he would as well.”
Former Wales and Real Madrid manager John Toshack
“I recall Brian Flynn (at the time, Wales age-group coach) approaching me and saying, ‘I have another one for you.’ Gareth Bale is going to be a fantastic actor.’
“I went to see him play in an evening game at Southampton, and it was evident he was a tremendous player playing for a team that understood what they were doing.”
“I suppose the fact that I made my club debut when I was 16 helped a little.” I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
“From the first day he joined us, he stood out in training sessions and remained around after practice to work on free kicks and shooting. To put it another way, it would have been tough to overlook him.
“He is without a doubt one of the finest players I have ever worked with, and I have had the good fortune to work with some of the top players in the world.”
“Early on at Real Madrid, there were many who criticized him for not doing enough. He didn’t have to do everything, however, since if he did half of what the others did, he could win the game.
‘Gareth is without a doubt one of the most talented players I’ve ever worked with.’
“I recall at Liverpool, whenever someone poked fun at us, we would answer by saying, ‘Show us your medals.’” I don’t believe Gareth needs to say anything further with him.
“Moving to Real Madrid improved his game. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have been excellent if he hadn’t gone there, but it’s clear that for any athlete, it’s the peak.
“For him to go there and play at the Bernabeu as much as he did and be a success demonstrates that he has been a fantastic ambassador for all of us.”
“Gareth was so well-liked in Madrid that he created a buzz whenever he stepped onto the field.” When he received the ball, you knew something was about to happen… but getting there is one thing; staying there is another.
“Gareth got there via hard work, perseverance, talent, and ability, and once there, he remained and demonstrated his worth with crucial goals.”
“Perhaps Gareth wasn’t as comfortable in front of the camera as the others at first. But he spoke for himself on the field, and no one could deny his significance or the value he provided to Read Madrid. He is one of the few Welsh players who have won a trophy at Real Madrid.
“If you go back over Wales’ history, there has always been a standout player. John Charles was a member of the 1958 World Cup squad, as were Ian Rush and Mark Hughes. We’ve always had exceptional people.
“Gareth is one of the best, if not the best, in the business. Because of his all-around talent, John Charles will always be the finest player I’ve ever seen on a football field… but Gareth has been excellent.
“It’s simple to say 100 internationals, but it’s far more difficult to achieve.” Gareth and Chris Gunter were among a group of young players that came through together.
“I believe they were roommates; they’ve traveled together with Wales all throughout Europe, and the two of them are a credit to their profession and the Wales national team.”
Chris Gunter, a defender for Wales, has 106 caps.
“It seems like we’ve been together since I’ve been in a first-team atmosphere, whether at Tottenham or in Wales.”
“Off the field, he’s the same when it comes to laughing. He just likes being with his friends. I believe he still hangs around with the same set of people.
“I believe he would classify us as his pals when he is in a football setting with individuals he has known for years.”
“Of course, everything has changed for him on the field, but when you’re around him day to day, you’d never guess he’s had the career and success he’s had.”
“From the time he initially broke in and played left-back, his game has evolved and altered. He’ll find a way to have an effect and influence the game no matter where he is on the field.
“In terms of producing something absolutely out of nothing, generating a chance, scoring a goal, or going on a dribble and getting the fans excited, he accomplishes things that not many others on the field could do.”
“You’re referring to a very extraordinary skill.” You almost feel sorry for the opponent as a defender because, when he’s in form, he does stuff you can’t defend against.
“For many years, it may have been taken for granted; you always expect him to have an impact on the game, and that has been the case for Wales more often than not.”
‘When it comes to having a laugh off the field, Gareth is the same. He just likes being in the company of his friends.
“There has always been discussion about him since he got to Real Madrid, but it has never hindered his performances for Wales.” So, in terms of dealing with the attention and pressure, I believe his career will demonstrate that it does not affect him in the least.
“When you’re talking about very excellent players, great players, they appreciate being the center of attention and feeling like they’re an important part of a winning team.” Results and statistics show that he appreciates being in charge.
“Despite their being periods for Wales when you haven’t seen him for a lengthy amount of time due to injuries, he has surpassed 100 caps.”
“If you asked anyone to choose their favorite Gareth Bale goal, moment, or performance, you’d probably receive a variety of different replies, demonstrating that he has consistently performed for his nation.”
“It’s huge for supporters to have someone who is a celebrity and wants to come and do all he can to go on the field and perform.”
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased when he gets there, and when he’s done playing football and looks back, going to 100 caps will be a major achievement for him.”
“In terms of what I’ve seen and some of the things he’s done, he has to be the best Welsh player I’ve ever seen.” I’ve had the luxury of being on the same pitch as that on occasion.
“Gareth has led the nation, essentially shouldering the responsibility alongside Aaron Ramsey.
“You won’t find a Welshman who has done what he has in the game in terms of all the records he has broken and the trophies he has won in a hundred years.”
“I don’t believe his Wales goal record will be broken for a long, long time, and he’ll almost certainly add to it by the time he’s done.” So everything you say leads to the conclusion that he is the best.
“I just hope we’ve all appreciated what we’ve had on our hands, whether we’ve been playing with him, watching him, supporting him, or reporting on him.”
“It’s a dream come true for someone like them to play for Wales. And the truth is that he still has a lot of work to do for Wales. Enjoy him for as long as he’s playing and wearing the Welsh jersey.”
Sophie Ingle (110 caps) is the captain of Wales.
“Reaching 100 caps is a tremendous achievement, and I know the nation will be ecstatic.”
“Hopefully, we’ll have a sell-out audience and a fantastic outcome for him.”
“Getting one cap for your nation is incredible, but getting 100 was unheard of.” That list now includes a handful of us. I’m sure he’ll be delighted.
“I believe I first heard of him when he joined the Welsh team. He is a year or two older than me, but he came into the senior game at a young age and went on to accomplish incredible things for Wales.
“Everyone is familiar with Gareth Bale. He is responsible for putting Wales on the map.
“There are a lot of high points. He has a lot of great goals for Wales, but it’s also about the enthusiasm he gives to the team. He understands the importance of wearing this emblem and treating every game as if it were his last. Every time he plays for Wales, I believe it shows.
“I believe he has the ability to lead Wales to the World Cup.” You can tell the lads look up to him when he’s on the squad.
“Every game, he gives all he has for the team, and he genuinely enjoys playing for Wales, as do we all. Hopefully, they will be able to get the qualification.”
2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas
“I didn’t see Gareth much at school, but I heard all the rumors about this football wonder child… and followed him from the beginning of his career.”
“It’s incredible to watch him perform what he’s done for the national team.” There may have been a little of a club against national team rivalry in the past.
“From what I’ve read, players clearly want to play in World Cups, yet qualifying seem to some to be more of a burden than an honor.”
“However, I’ve always received the idea that Gareth wanted to return to Wales and represent the country.” He has always done an outstanding job as the team’s leader.
“It’s inspiring to watch him accomplish something so significant. It is well earned, and hopefully he will be able to continue to lead the squad in the next years.”