There are many big-name stars who fail to shine on an international setting.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo never seem to be at their best when representing their respective countries. The entire England team, the majority of whom play in the Premier League, have looked like amateurs for close to 15 years.
But one player who hasn’t flopped when under the weight of an entire nation is Wales hero Gareth Bale.
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Without the illustrious performances of Bale, scorer of three goals at Euro 2016, Chris Coleman’s spirited team wouldn’t currently be preparing for a semi-final clash against Portugal.
He truly has been a joy to watch. For Real Madrid, Bale is often overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo. But for the Dragons, he’s the star of the show.
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One of the reasons for his success is obvious; Wales are the tightest-knit team in the tournament. The pressure on Bale is lessened by his teammates, who treat the world’s most expensive player no differently to Hal Robson-Kanu, who is currently unemployed.
Another, lesser-known secret to Bale’s impressive performances is the presence of Jaime Benito in the Wales camp.
You might not have heard of Benito before. With a name like ‘Benito’, you’re probably also doubtful that he is even Welsh.
That’s because he isn’t. Benito is Real Madrid’s physio, and is in France with Wales upon Bale’s request.
According to Marca, the former Tottenham Hotspur man personally asked the physio to join Coleman’s staff “in order to give him more chance of performing well.”
Though he hasn’t appeared in any official photographs, Benito has been seen wearing Wales gear.
He shares a close relationship with Bale, having helped the winger, who isn’t yet entirely fluent in Spanish, settle in at the Santiago Bernabeu.
And given Bale’s pretty wretched injury record since he join Madrid from Spurs for £85 million in 2013, the pair have seen plenty of each other.
Bale v Ronaldo
Benito is now tasked with helping Bale prepare to take on Ronaldo.
The teammates will be enemies when Wales take on Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday.
Ronaldo has been kept quiet in France and Portugal have been rather underwhelming, reaching the last-four while failing to win a single game in 90 minutes.
And James Chester, who was at Manchester United at the same time Ronaldo was, thinks Jorge Jesus’s team can be beaten.
"I don't see any reason why we can't [beat them],” Chester said, per Sky Sports.
"They've had to go to extra time twice, that's of benefit to us. If we play like we did against Belgium, and like we did against Russia, we'll be a match for anyone."
Who will come out on top between Wales and Portugal? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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