‘Wind-up merchant’ Gareth Bale still in love with football, says Nathan Blake

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale speaks to the media ahead of Wales' game against Hungary. Image Lewis Mitchell

by Matt Slater

GARETH BALE’S ability to keep perspective and retain his sense of humour has been praised by – at a time when the Wales talisman has been accused of falling out of love with the game. 

Bale’s long-running struggle at Real Madrid under boss Zinedine Zidane was ended during the last transfer move when he moved back to his old club Spurs on loan.

The switch improved his demeanour almost immediately, and Nathan Blake, the former Cardiff City and Wales attacker, underlined Bale’s strength of character.

“He has always been a wind-up merchant.” Blake said of Bale while talking on BBC 5 Live Sport.

“In the Euros, when the video came out of the Welsh players celebrating when England were knocked out, he was first in front of the camera and had a constant smirk like it was a mickey take.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This was Wales celebrating England getting knocked out of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/euro2016?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#euro2016</a>. Feels an apt time to rewatch it. We’ll send a postcard from Russia. <a href=”https://t.co/a0kyfGMSYA”>pic.twitter.com/a0kyfGMSYA</a></p>&mdash; Andy Halls (@AndyBizarre) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AndyBizarre/status/917495494846369792?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 9, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

“He clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously, and although he takes the game very seriously, he seems like the type of character that lets lot of things go over his head.

“He might have fallen out of love with football because of certain personnel at Real Madrid, but I don’t think he ever fell out of love with the game. I think he has always loved football.

“He has shown remarkable commitment to Wales, if he has not been playing for Real Madrid, he’s always turned up for Welsh games. And if he were not in love with the game, he would not have done that.”

Meanwhile as Bale nears full fitness, he insists Wales is still his priority, despite the hype surrounding his return to north London.

Speaking to BBC Sport Wales’ Rob Phillips ahead of the clash with Finland, Bale said: “I’m just excited to get back to full fitness and hopefully it will not be too long and leading into the Euros in the summer – that is where I want to be peaking.

“I still need to get fitter and get sharper.

“It has been six weeks now since I have come back (to Tottenham), it is all about building.

“It takes a little bit of time, especially when you’re a little bit older.”