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Gareth Bale earning his Spurs at Tottenham

Tottenham may have lost 4-3 to Inter Milan in October, but the match will long be remembered for the performance of Gareth Bale.

After the 21-year-old's hat-trick at the San Siro, BBC Sport spoke to the man who brought him to White Hart Lane - Damien Comolli.

The club's former director of football signed Bale from Southampton in 2007 and has since watched him blossom into one of the most dangerous left-sided players in world football.

Bale was at it again on Tuesday as Spurs beat Inter 3-1 on home soil, and we felt Comolli's thoughts were well worth revisiting.

Gareth Bale and Damien Comolli
Bale was brought to Tottenham by Comolli as a 17-year-old in 2007

By David Ornstein

"What we saw against Inter was very similar to what I saw when Gareth was playing for Southampton as a 17-year-old," Comolli, who signed Bale for £5m in 2007, told BBC Sport.

"When I watched him for the first time I was gobsmacked.

"He was already showing the strength, the technical ability, the confidence to take people on, the pace, the quality left foot, the work-rate. He had it all.

"I remember coming back from scouting him and thinking 'I've seen the new Paolo Maldini'. I watched him a couple more times but the game that did it for me was Southampton's 2-0 victory over QPR at Loftus Road in 2007.

SELECTED COMOLLI SIGNINGS
Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Dimitar Berbatov
Didier Zakora
Gareth Bale
Jonathan Woodgate
Luka Modric
Heurelho Gomes
Grzegorz Rasiak
Mido
Ricardo Rocha
Darren Bent
Giovani dos Santos
Roman Pavlyuchenko
Vedran Corluka

"He was the best player on the pitch by a mile. I knew he was going to be world class, I knew we had to get him. I went back to Spurs and told [chairman] Daniel Levy we had to buy him."

Bale initially struggled for form and fitness after arriving at White Hart Lane - current Spurs boss Harry Redknapp claimed he was too preoccupied with his hairstyle - and fans were quick to point an accusatory finger at Comolli.

The young Welshman did not enjoy a league win until 26 September 2009, a period spanning 25 games, 1533 minutes, 28 months and three managers.

"A year ago Gareth was second-choice left-back behind Benoit Assou-Ekotto and now people are saying he's a world-class player. What he's done in the last year is amazing," said Comolli, now sporting director at French Ligue One side St Etienne.

"It is difficult to call a player world class when he is only 21. He has the potential to be world class but we haven't seen the best of Gareth yet. He will really start to mature when he's 23-24, which is a scary prospect."

Gareth Bale
Bale burst on to the scene as a teenager with Southampton

Born and raised in Cardiff by parents Frank and Debbie, Bale attended junior and secondary schools in Whitchurch where his exceptional footballing talent was apparent from an early age - one PE teacher only allowed him to use his weaker right foot to make games more even.

Bale's progress was such that after being taken on as a scholar by Southampton, he was fast-tracked into the first-team setup and made his club debut at 16 years and 275 days before becoming Wales' youngest ever full international 40 days later.

By now, Comolli needed no convincing and he moved quickly to close the deal.

"He was getting a lot of phone calls from Ryan Giggs urging him to join Manchester United," recalled Comolli. "But we were the first club to show a really strong interest and he saw our motivation in trying to get him. That proved decisive.

PHIL McNULTY'S BLOG

"The policy we had at Spurs then was to try and get young British players into the team - we had Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe and Jermaine Jenas.

"He believed in what we told him and knew if he came he would have a very good chance to play at a great club with an atmosphere that would suit a 17-year-old."

Comolli suggests Bale's "remarkable mental strength" enabled him to get through a hugely testing first couple of years before establishing himself as Tottenham's first-choice left-midfielder.

From January 2009 to January 2010, Bale started only one of 36 league games, whereas at the time of writing he has started their last 29 - and his nine goals in the last 22 games eclipses a record of only one from his first 66 appearances.

In short, he has become a key part of Redknapp's plans and was rewarded with a new four-year contract in May, though he may yet be offered improved terms at the end of this season to fend off interest from Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Bale reaching new heights - Flynn

"Spurs are desperate to hold on to Gareth but I know last summer there were big, big clubs sniffing around," suggested Comolli, who thinks Bale still needs to work on aspects such as his right foot, his defending and his ability to dominate a game.

"If they are ambitious and want to do well in the future they have to keep hold of him and Champions League football should help them do that."

Comolli believes his time with Spurs can be measured as a success because of the emergence of players like Bale.

"I still find Tottenham's decision to sack me unfair and difficult to accept because when I signed players like Gareth I was 100% convinced they would turn out to be a success and now we're seeing that," he reasons.

"When you sign young players you can't expect them to deliver immediately, good management is about not panicking - but that's football, you just have to move on and quite often other people benefit from your work.

"So many people from the world of football - coaches, agents, press, fans etc - sent text messages after the Inter match congratulating and thanking me on bringing through Bale. But I'm not happy for myself, I'm happy for him."



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see also
Tottenham 3-1 Inter Milan
02 Nov 10 |  Europe
Redknapp salutes 'amazing' Bale
02 Nov 10 |  Europe
Redknapp determined to keep Bale
21 Oct 10 |  Tottenham
Inter Milan 4-3 Tottenham
20 Oct 10 |  Europe
Bale named Wales' player of year
04 Oct 10 |  Welsh
Bale set for greatness - Redknapp
01 Oct 10 |  Tottenham
Bale signs new Tottenham contract
07 May 10 |  Tottenham
Bale to stay at Spurs - Redknapp
23 Apr 10 |  Tottenham
Comolli makes St Etienne return
10 Nov 08 |  Europe
Tottenham sack Ramos for Redknapp
26 Oct 08 |  Tottenham
Bale to be a Premier star - Giggs
26 May 07 |  Tottenham
How good is Gareth Bale?
26 May 07 |  Tottenham
Tottenham complete Bale transfer
25 May 07 |  Tottenham
Bale savours record Wales debut
28 May 06 |  Internationals
Comolli replaces Arnesen at Spurs
08 Sep 05 |  Tottenham


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