The moment I saw that Gareth Bale was not warming up with Real Madrid’s starting XI I thought: ‘Liverpool are in trouble here.’
Bale is at his devastating best when he has a point to prove.
This is someone who had to develop mental toughness as a young man at Tottenham when his managers were almost too scared to play him.
Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale is at his devastating best when he has a point to prove
He was not on the winning side in any of his first 24 matches for Spurs and there were question marks over his character.
When my dad arrived at the club, he could see he had a promising talent but also a player who still had much to improve.
As a teenager, Bale was a brilliant athlete but would go down a lot in training or keep needing treatment from the physio.
What he needed was tough love and to start believing that he was good enough. Moving from left back to the wing helped Bale unlock his true potential.
The winger’s bicycle kick against Liverpool was the perfect reminder of his talents
Once he grew in confidence, it wasn’t long before Dad was telling me: ‘You should see what this boy is doing in training!’
The Champions League has been good to Gareth, giving him the platform to showcase his talents. That sensational hat-trick against Inter Milan was the moment he realised, ‘I can do this.’
By the end of his Tottenham career, he had transformed into a world-class forward who was deciding games by himself. And he did just that in Kiev to blow away Liverpool. Steve McManaman told me recently that to succeed at Real Madrid, you have to make the fans fall in love with you. If two goals in the Champions League final do not win over the supporters, I don’t know what will.
I’m intrigued to see what he does next. I can’t understand why anyone would want to leave the lifestyle Gareth has in Spain but he wants to play more regularly.
If Manchester United want to stop playing boring football, Jose Mourinho should sign Bale
Everything points to a return to the Premier League. We have the best managers — now we need a ‘galactico’ player.
I wrote in my last column of the season that if Manchester United want to stop playing boring football, Jose Mourinho should go out and sign him.
Mourinho is not going to make a player like Bale track back and help out the left back. He will want to get the ball to him at the top of the team and win them matches.
After the final whistle on Saturday night, Jose should have been straight on the phone to Ed Woodward. Buy Bale and the United fans would believe they can catch Manchester City next season.
Bale is someone who had to develop mental toughness as a young man at Tottenham
Bale would rightly have reservations about United’s style of play, of course — and about how another star in Paul Pogba has struggled.
Should Eden Hazard head to the Bernabeu this summer I could see Bale going in the opposite direction. Equally, he may be unsure as to who will be in charge at Stamford Bridge.
At 28, he is in the peak of his career. Whoever signs him would be getting a model professional. Gareth knows he is a great player but he is not arrogant. He is still a very quiet, unassuming man.
That bicycle kick was the perfect reminder of his talents. He will be a game-changer for whoever he joins.