When the second of Gareth Bale’s free-kicks whistled into the net, the stadium as one rose to applaud a fantastic player. The Welshman has been my favourite player for the last few years, his speed, skill and strength worth the entrance fee alone, there is no doubting he is a class act but:
Is Gareth Bale world class?
For a word that is part of footballing terminology it is one that has been exceptionally overused in the last 20 SKY dominated years. Mediums such as Twitter and Facebook have given everyone a platform; we all have opinions on what is and isn’t world class.
Heaven forbid that I should claim my definition of what is World Class to be the truest, but as a person who has grown up totally obsessed with the World Cup, I feel that is the only place to start.
To be regarded as world class you need to have achieved something notable on the world’s biggest footballing stage. The World Cup is the pinnacle of football. It pits the greatest nations against each other in a format that lasts a little over a month. It’s the Champions League, but 8 months quicker, without the oligarchs, the incredible wages and it happens only every four years.
For a player to be able to stand alongside the true world greats Zinedine Zidane, the Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta, Gigi Buffon, Maradona and Pele to name but a few, they need to be able to have produced something at the very top. They need to have excelled on the greatest stage this planet can offer a footballer.
When the entire planet is watching, can this individual step up from amongst his peers and deliver a performance that sees his country named as the best on earth?
For Bale to achieve world class status at White Hart Lane, we need regular Champions League football and a serious title challenge.
The names I mentioned above are among the few that have done this. They are world class and are worthy of such a description.
Of course by stating the only way to prove you are world class is to achieve something on the greatest stage of all is rather limiting. The World Cup isn’t available to everyone, some fantastic players hail from countries that will never play at a World Cup.
Bale is a prime example of this; can this wonderful footballer be defined as world class if he never has the opportunity to play at a World Cup?
His boyhood hero Ryan Giggs never played at the World Cup, yet some would argue that earlier in his career he was in the in that world class bracket. Personally I have never been a huge fan, but I see their viewpoint. Giggs maintained an incredible level of performance over a number of years at the highest level available to him, the Premier League and the Champions League. On that basis he can be tagged as World Class.
Across Europe Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are currently the best two players on the planet. They have won multiple league titles, Champions Leagues and World Club Cups, but both have failed to shine at a World Cup. This is the biggest black mark against them, this is what prevents them from stepping on to the same level as Zidane, Iniesta and the Ronaldo.
In 2006 Messi was perhaps too young, but in 2010 he was supposed to be at his peak. He failed to deliver even a solitary goal as Argentina was eventually dispatched by Germany. Ronaldo meanwhile has fared little better, an average 2006 followed up only a solitary goal in 2010 against North Korea before Portugal went home at the second round stage.
These two undeniably great players failed to inspire their strong national teams to even relative glory. Their individual performances are now remembered for the fact that they failed to perform.
In club football a team can be shaped financially and through serious training to suit an individual, in international football it’s about a player assuming the responsibility of representing his country and delivering. Think about the Wayne Rooney you see play for England and Man United, there is a stark contrast between the two.
A player doesn’t need to hail from a footballing superpower to achieve world class status at a World Cup. Hristo Stoichkov, Gheorghe Hagi, Zvonimir Boban and Jean Marie Pfaff are all examples of players performing well above their countries abilities and inspiring a team.
To be regarded as world class you need to have achieved something notable on the world’s biggest footballing stage.
Messi and Ronaldo have no excuse for failing in Argentina and Portugal teams far more gifted than most other nations. Should they fail again in 2014, then they will remain class, never reaching the world class category.
Returning to the Spurs winger Bale for him to be even considered world class there needs to be consistency. This consistency needs to be played out at the highest stage available to him, whether Spurs can give him what he needs to really prove himself though remains to be seen.
For Bale to achieve world class status at White Hart Lane, we need regular Champions League football and a serious title challenge. Not one that ends in January after a winter of promise.
Bale is the toast of Tottenham, but for him to be defined world class there remains a lot of work still to do.
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