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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 May 2007, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
How good is Gareth Bale?
By John May

Gareth Bale
Bales is another Saints hot property heading for North London
Tottenham have landed one of English football's hottest properties, forking out a package worth up to 10m for Southampton defender Gareth Bale.

That is a lot of money to pay for a 17-year-old defender who has never played in the Premiership.

But along with West Brom's Jason Koumas, Bale is arguably the best player outside the top flight.

Cynics might say that as Spurs see themselves as Arsenal's equals, when the Gunners paid big money for a Southampton teenager, Tottenham felt they had to do the same.

In the past couple of years Saints fans have seen the thick end of 25m worth of teenage talent head up the M3 to see if the streets of London really are paved with gold.

But while Theo Walcott is yet to nail down a regular place at the Emirates, Bale is an off-the-shelf product, ready-assembled for instant first-team use.

WHAT ARE SPURS GETTING FOR THEIR MONEY?

If Bale were a pair of shoes, he would be a pair of hand-tooled, Lobb brogues.

He is a quality product, that should last a long time if given the right care and attention.

It may be stating the obvious, but as a left-back, Bale is left-footed. In fact he has a magician's wand of a left-peg, with which he is able to conjure up magic from free-kicks.

606: DEBATE

Having become Saints second-youngest debutant (behind Walcott) when he made his bow against Millwall at the end of last season Bale first came to national attention with his first goal for Saints this season, a stunning free-kick in their opening game against Derby.

It was a feat he repeated several times this season, even inviting comparison with David Beckham's dead-ball skills.

BALE ESSENTIALS
Born: 16/7/89, Cardiff
League debut: 17/4/2006, v Millwall
Wales debut: 27/5/2006, v Trinidad & Tobago
Appearances: 44
Goals: 5

But his offensive attributes are not just about dead balls. He is a brilliant dribbler, able to shed a defender with a drop of a shoulder or a stepover, and importantly, there is always an end-product in terms of a telling cross.

Such are his attacking qualities that he could easily play as a left-sided midfielder.

Bale is an excellent defender at Championship level. Being quick, he can show attackers the outside and there are few, if any, at that level who would skin him.

He is very sharp in the tackle, solid in the air, and for a 17-year-old, he has a very mature head on his shoulders.

All in all, he looks a complete player.

BUT...

He is still only 17, and is still learning his trade.

The Championship is a good school to do that, the Premiership is a much tougher one, full of nasty bullies.

Bale has been well-taught and coached by Saints staff, and generally his positional play is pretty sound.

But there were times this season when he was caught out of position, and he will be up against a far more cunning and canny animal in the Premiership.

His right foot is something of a swinger, and if street-wise Premiership defenders funnel him inside, he is less effective on his starboard side.

SO IS HE WORTH IT?

As a long-term investment, he will be. A package worth 10m for a 17-year-old defender is a gamble, but if Spurs get 10 years out of him, it will be a snip.

Gareth Bale
Bale shows the magical left peg that makes him so coveted

But Saints have also done well out of the deal. The Championship club are about to lose their Premier League parachute payments, and Bale only had one more year left on his contract, so they had to cash in.

Under those circumstances, you might have expected Spurs to be able to dictate terms, but it appears Saints have played hardball.

And Spurs know all about getting their fingers burned when buying defenders from Saints.

Tottenham fans will no doubt remember the 8m paid for Dean Richards - from whom Spurs only got three injury-ravaged seasons.



SEE ALSO
Tottenham complete Bale transfer
25 May 07 |  Tottenham Hotspur
Bale to be a Premier star - Giggs
26 May 07 |  Tottenham Hotspur


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