Gareth Bale is living, breathing evidence of a player’s capacity to improve and transform his career.
The Tottenham Hotspur full-back turned winger initially struggled at White Hart Lane after joining the club from Southampton as a 17-year-old.
For a time he was actually a curse on the side as they failed to win in the Premier League whenever he took to the field. But he has now emerged as one of the best wingers in world soccer, a player who frightens full-backs with his pace and precision delivery into the box.
- Name: Gareth Frank Bale
- Nationality: Welsh
- Date and Place of Birth: July 16 1989 in Cardiff, Wales
- Position: Full-back/Winger
- Current Club: Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
- Previous Club: Southampton (2006-2007)
- International Career: 2006 to present
Southampton Youth Product:
Bale came through the Southampton ranks at the same time as Theo Walcott and made his professional debut for the club against Millwall in the Championship towards the end of the 2005-06 campaign.
He only played one full season at St. Mary’s, but helped the club into the play-offs where they were knocked out by Derby County.
Bale’s first goal for the club came against the same opponents in August 2006, and he would go on to score four more for the Saints before Tottenham secured his services for an initial fee of £5million, rising to £10 million dependent on the player’s progress at White Hart Lane.
Slow Start at Spurs:
Bale scored in just his second appearance for Spurs against Fulham on September 1, 2007. Although he also netted in a north London derby defeat to Arsenal that season, injury and competition for places restricted him to just eight appearances in the Premier League.
After many disappointing displays, predominantly as a full-back, Bale really found his feet in the second half of the 2009/10 season under Harry Redknapp. But only after he had managed to end an extraordinary winless record. Bale had previously been involved in 25 matches and 1,533 minutes of league action without being part of a winning side, but that hoodoo was banished on September 26, 2009 when he came off the bench in a 5-0 win over Burnley.
Transformation Under Redknapp:
Bale began alternating between a left-back and left-wing position. Within weeks of that Burnley match he was wowing crowds up and down the country with some devastating wing play as he helped the club qualify for the Champions League for the first time.
Goals against London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea won him a place in many a Spurs fan’s heart, and it was clear that, although a fine full-back, his best work was done as a winger in the opposition half.
The ‘Taxi for Maicon’ chant came as a result of his devastating performances against the Brazil defender in Tottenham’s Champions League group stage encounters with Inter Milan in the 2010/11 season. He took his performances to another level that season and won the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association) Players' Player of the Year award.
After being capped by his country at Under-21 level, Bale went on to become the youngest ever player to appear for Wales when he came off the bench against Trinidad and Tobago in June, 2006.
His first start for the national team came against Brazil, ironically at White Hart Lane, and although he did not find the net in that match, it was not long before he became his country’s youngest ever scorer when registering against Slovakia in a European Championship qualifier.
The task for the likes of Bale and Aaron Ramsey now is to help Wales out of qualifying and into a major tournament.