The praise keeps coming for Spurs winger Gareth Bale.
Most recently, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that Tottenham’s star could one day be as good as Lionel Messi. It's true, Wenger cautioned that Bale is not at that level yet, but he admitted he could one day get there.
Last week, Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas likened Bale leaving White Hart Lane to Messi exiting Barcelona or Cristiano Ronaldo parting ways with Real Madrid. Bale himself said that he is in the best form of his life; he has scored in five of Tottenham’s last ten games, tallying nine goals in that span, and has almost single-handedly kept Spurs alive in their Champions League qualification pursuit and current Europa League competition.
Some have said that Tottenham are a one-man team, and at present, who could argue? In the last four matches, every Tottenham goal has either come off Bale’s head or his left foot. For years, Bale has been regarded as a talented player, but could Wenger’s assessment be accurate - could he one day rival Messi?
Let's have a look by using some GMF Academy grades. To the scorecards!
Messi – A
Bale – A-
Ronaldo – A-
Their strong-foot finishing is what makes these three the best in the game. Messi boasts the greater accuracy, finding corners with ease from any angle, while Bale’s power slightly tops that of Ronaldo.
Messi – B
Bale – C
Ronaldo – C+
Perhaps the weakest part of Bale’s game is his ability to finish with his right foot. Working down the left-hand channel if Bale cuts inside he intends to pass, as his right-footed shot is hardly a threat. Ronaldo is weak on his wrong-foot as well, but Messi sets himself above the other two with his ability to strike both left and right-footed.
Messi – C
Bale – B +
Ronaldo – A-
Ronaldo is listed at 6’1”, and Bale at 6’0”. At 5’7” Messi’s height disadvantage means that he does not win many battles in the air. However, if the right ball is played and Messi gets space he can finish headers adeptly. Bale and Ronaldo are tall enough and strong enough to elevate above defenders to reach the ball first, and both are cool finishers once there. Of the three, Cristiano is the best in the air, as he showed in last week’s Champions League match against Manchester United.
Messi – C+
Bale – A-
Ronaldo – B-
Not only is Bale a clinical finisher, but his commitment to helping out in the defensive third could be one of his biggest attributes. His rapid pace and incredible endurance allows him to track down ball carriers and play two-way football for the entire game. Often the lone front-man, Messi is not called upon to check back on defence. And Ronaldo doesn’t always show the same defensive commitment every possession that Bale does.
Messi – B+
Bale – A
Ronaldo – A-
These are three of the most lethal free-kick finishers in recent history. Bale in particular has been working on his dead-ball shot and has scored some vital goals in recent games. His routine appears to have taken a page right out of Ronaldo's playbook — from the menacing stance to the knuckling shot.
Bale – Whether fair or not, he has gained a reputation for simulation, having been carded more times than anyone else in England.
Ronaldo – The constant media attention and transfer rumours can affect play, not only for Ronaldo, but for his teammates as well.
Messi – There is only one of him.
Messi remains the best player in the world, but Ronaldo may be looking over his shoulder - he could be usurped in second spot by Gareth Bale by the season’s end.
Do you agree or disagree? All of the grades awarded here are the opinions of the article's author, they do not claim to be definitive.
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