I can't be the only one who's enjoying Gareth Bale's recent injury sabbatical. No I'm not a Premier League right-back looking forward to a New Year break, I'm not even an Arsenal fan. It's just nice to be able to turn on my TV and watch some football without the inevitability of hearing some commentator, pundit, expert or Gareth Southgate heralding the Welshman as "world class".
Now, lets get one thing straight from the start, this is not an article criticising Gareth Bale. He's an excellent talent, an imposing winger with electrifying pace, a hunger to put his defender on the back foot throughout, and boasts an impressive ability from set-pieces.
However, he is far from world class. Despite turning in impressive performances for club and country, they have been all too fleeting to fall into the aforementioned category.
He famously ran Maicon ragged at the San Siro and seems to have 'dined out' on that performance for more than two years.
Since then he's often suppressed by teams opting to double up against him and his statistics, whilst making for impressive reading, do not stand him out ahead of the crowd.
As we can see from the figures above, Bale ranks well when compared to other Premier League wingers across the last three seasons, recording the best games per goal ratio and ranking third for overall frequency of goals or assists. But, his contribution is bettered by both Theo Walcott and Antonio Valencia - both players whom the status of world class is never mentioned, and rightly so.
'World class' is a definition reserved for the greatest players of their respective generations, players who could easily adapt to any scenario in football, seamlessly dropping into any team. World class conjures images of great players from Pele and Puskas to Messi and Ronaldo and thats the way it should be.
At just 23-years old, Bale is far from entering such an elite grouping, but few have ever been at such an age and with the right aptitude and exposure to regular Champions League football he certainly has all the credentials to get there one day.
Unfortunately world class is another overused phrase banded around all to regularly, especially in the case of Gareth Bale.
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