MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Even the Welsh hyperbole is not sufficient for Bale
Updated 12:50pm Tuesday 27th May 2014 in Sport
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale lifts the trophy during celebrations at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, May 25, 2014, after the team won the Champions League final soccer match in Lisbon, Portugal by beating Atletico Madrid. (AP Pho
ALREADY a Champions League winner and the most expensive player in the world, there truly is no telling just how far Gareth Bale can take his career.
However, after his history moment on Saturday and with an entire nation revelling in his moment of glory, it's definitely time to re-assess our aims and ambitions for Bale.
Because he has the talent and the temperament to succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the very best in the world.
He has the confidence and the athleticism to emulate their accolades, he is the right age to become one of the most decorated and legendary names in the history of football.
Remember, these words are being penned just a week after I acknowledged hyperbole and over-the-top praise in sports journalism, but Bale is the real deal, more than even I appreciated.
There are few people, outside Gareth's friends and family, who will have had the privilege of watching him many more times than I have.
Whether it's on duty for Wales, with the feet up watching Madrid on television or from the memory banks of more Tottenham games than I could mention, the Prince of Wales has been a regular highlight for me for the past half a decade.
His progress has been simply stunning.
The last time I saw Bale live in a final was when Tottenham faced Manchester United in the League Cup in 2010.
Bale was an unused substitute, an afterthought in a side containing Jamie O'Hara and David Bentley after narrowly avoiding a loan move to Birmingham City.
Signed as a left back, Bale had quickly compiled an unwelcome record of over 20 successive Spurs appearances without being on the winning side and many were starting to give up on him.
Never mind that he'd already produced dazzling glimpses of his talent; he was struggling to even make the grade at a mid-table Premier League outfit.
Harry Redknapp began using Bale as a winger in the 2010/11 due to injury and it was a period of time that transformed him.
The rest of the world might have awoken to Bale only after his dazzling hat-trick at the San Siro, but it was winning goals against Arsenal and Chelsea on route to qualifying for the Champions League that kick-started Bale's meteoric rise.
There is no need to recap how phenomenal he was last season, his final one in England and no Tottenham or Wales fan would've doubted he had the ability to succeed in Spain.
However, not for a second did I foresee Bale having such an extraordinary and immediate impact at the most high pressured club in world football.
Just look at the greatest imports of the Premier League, Drogba, Ronaldo, Bergkamp and Henry to name but a few, all to a man took time to settle to their new environments and none hit top heights in their first seasons.
Arguably, neither has Bale, with 22 goals and 17 assists, not quite the extraordinary figures he produced for Spurs last term.
However, there is a context, that being that Bale has only got better as the season has gone on. And he's produced in the big moments, scoring winning goals in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.
The finals allowed Bale to show every incredible attribute he possesses, his amazing stamina, speed, work rate, dribbling ability, eye for goal, athleticism and even his Michael Jordan-esque hang-time.
His game is virtually without weakness, but it is Bale's mental strength that I underestimated and it is his ability to take everything in his stride that will take him to the top of world football.
We've seen supremely talented footballers who lacked the mental acumen to maintain their levels of genius.
Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona and I believe Luis Suarez are all examples, the chaos they bring on and off the field meaning the genius is always tempered by unwelcome distractions.
Bale has no such worries. He's a grounded and normal guy, well educated and a credit to the family orientated upbringing he's enjoyed. He’s also ice cool on the field. Miss three good chances in a Champions League final and still be ready when your moment of destiny comes? That’s truly impressive.
Still only 24, Bale is probably three years away from hitting his peak and hopefully has another decade or so to let his accolades mount up.
Madrid's historic tenth European Cup is already on the CV, but the graduate of the Southampton academy can become Wales' greatest sporting export (even more legendary than John Charles).
More European Cups, multiple La Liga titles and the Ballon d'Or should all be in his sights and I have no doubt he'll achieve everything he sets out to do.
However, Bale's greatest achievement could yet come on the international stage.
Wales have never had two players of the quality of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey available with such comparative strength around them and Hull defender James Chester has now answered the long-term issue Wales have had in central defence.
Bale is the man who can finally get Wales to a major tournament, especially with the Euros now extended to 24 teams and that would be his greatest achievement of all.
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