Gareth Bale

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Gareth Bale is a Welsh full back/winger who was born in Cardiff on 19th July 1989. His uncle Chris Pike was also a professional footballer. Bale began his career at Southampton and was part of the clubs 2005/06 Premier League Academy winning side. Prior to that he had trained in the Bath satellite program. Rod Ruddick was the man who first spotted Bale playing in a Welsh U9s six-a-side tournament. Ruddick was in charge of the Bath Academy, and later said the club were considering letting Bale go. The Welsh youngster experienced growth spurts between the ages of 14 and 16, which affected his mobility and strength. He missed a lot of playing time due to a series of back injuries, with Saints coming very close to releasing the player as late as 2005. When a spate of injuries hit Staplewood, a 15 year old Bale was called up for a make or break clash at Norwich. His parents travelled all the way from Cardiff, knowing that the match could decide his future at the club. Fortunately things could hardly have gone any better. Bale shone in a 5-1 win, linking up with Theo Walcott, who scored a hatrick.

The Welshman made his Saints first team debut in a 2-0 win over Millwall on 17th April 2006, and looked very comfortable at the tender age of 16. On 27th May 2006 Bale made his international debut for Wales in a 2-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago, making him the youngest ever player to appear for his country at 16 years and 315 days.

Bale scored his first goal for Southampton on August 6th 2006, with a stunning free kick at Derby in the opening week of the season. People really stood up and took notice when he scored a second free kick three days later in a 2-0 win over Coventry. Incredibly Bale almost added to his tally in his third game of the season, when he hit the post in a 0-0 draw with West Brom. Despite starting at full back, Bale often dictated the play for George Burley's side, and was one of the clubs top performers in the first few months of the campaign. On 7th October 2006 Bale scored his first international goal, predictably from a free kick, in a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Slovakia. Back at club level Bale continued to perform well, and scored a last minute equaliser at Sunderland on 11th November 2006. After he bagged another two goals from free kicks against Hull and Norwich in December, Premiership clubs started to monitor the young left back. Bale's displays in the second half of 2006/07 took a turn for the worse however. He was clearly feeling the effects of a busy season, and looked burned out as he struggled for form. Bale had a nightmare on March 5th 2007 when Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson came to watch him in a televised match at Preston. He pulled on a Saints shirt for the final time on 12th May 2007 in the play-off semi final first leg with Derby County.

Bale signed for Tottenham on 25th May 2007 for an initial fee of £5,000,000 (potential rising to £10m). Bale made his Spurs debut on 26th August 2007 in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United, and acquitted himself well, adapting to his new surroundings in the Premiership. The Welsh international scored his first goal for the club on 1st September 2007 in a 3-3 draw at Fulham. Bale converted his first successful free kick for the club on 15th September in a 3-1 loss to arch rivals Arsenal. His progress was hampered by an injury sustained in a match with Birmingham on 2nd December 2007, which ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Bale signed a new four year deal when he regained his fitness in August 2008. The former Saints defender had a very disappointing 2008/09 campaign, and was the butt of many jokes amongst football fans after failing to appear on the winning side once in his first 24 Premiership matches. There was even talk of a possible move away from White Hart Lane, with Nottingham Forest apparently keen to take Bale on loan. He finally appeared on the winning side in a Premiership contest with Burnley on September 26th 2009, when Spurs thrashed The Clarets 5-0. Bale was in and out of the side for the first half of 2009/10, but his career was reborn in early 2010 when manager Harry Redknapp switched him from left back to a wide midfield position. He caused defences up and down the land problems with his marauding style, lightning pace and pin point crossing. Bale scored key goals against London foes Arsenal and Chelsea in April 2010, which helped Tottenham qualify for the Champions League.

Bale started the 2010/11 season very well, scoring a brace in his first start at Stoke on August 14th. His volley for the second that day was one of the best of the year. It was in Europe though that the Welshman really made his mark. He played a key role in all of Tottenham's group games, and scored an incredible hatrick in a 4-3 loss at Inter Milan on 20th October 2010, which led to former Spurs great Ossie Aridiles proclaiming him the best player in the world. Bale was man of the match in the return leg at White Hart Lane, which Spurs won 3-1. These performances led to speculation that the youngster could be bound for a big money move to Barcelona or Real Madrid. Bale continued to impress domestically too, bagging another brace against Blackburn on November 13th 2010, as well as a goal against rivals Arsenal on 20th November 2010, which set Spurs on their way to an amazing 3-2 comeback win at Ashburton Grove. On March 19th 2011 Bale signed a new contract, keeping him at Tottenham until 2015. He picked up the PFA Player of the Year award on 17th April 2011.

Bale enjoyed another fine season during 2011/12, netting 15 goals for club and country. His first goal of the campaign came in the Europa League hammering of Hearts on 18th August 2011. Bale had Spurs in title contention for the first half of the season. He netted in a 2-1 win over Wigan on September 24th and also scored twice in a 3-1 win over QPR on October 30th 2011. In December he found the net against Bolton and Norwich. That same month he was named in UEFA's team of 2011. Bale was voted Premier League Player of the Month for January after scoring three times and creating two more for his teammates. One of those goals was a cracker against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City in a 3-2 loss at The City of Manchester Stadium. Bale took a massive dive in the North London derby on 26th February, but the resulting penalty from Emmanuel Adebayor wasn't enough to stop a 5-2 defeat. He scored in the FA Cup quarter-final against Bolton and in the semi-final defeat against Chelsea on 15th April.

Bale had another season to remember during 2012/13. New manager Andre Villas-Boas deployed him in a more central role, which allowed the Welshman to thrive. He was a cut above most other players in the league. Bale played a massive role in Tottenham’s high tempo attacking system. He netted 26 goals for Spurs, plus a further 5 for Wales. Highlights included a goal in a long-awaited 3-2 win at Old Trafford. Bale scored a header in a 2-1 win over former club Southampton on 28th October.

Bale won a number of games singlehandedly during his final season at Tottenham. He scored a hatrick in a 4-0 win at Villa Park on December 26th 2012. On February 3rd 2013 he bagged a screamer at West Brom. Bale was quite possibly the most complete Premier League player of 2012/13. He combined speed and mobility with unerring delivery and technique. Doubles against Newcastle and Lyon were superb. Bale helped Spurs come from behind at West Ham on 25th February, scoring a corker of a winner. In March 2013 he scored in a North London derby win over Arsenal, before tormenting Inter at White Hart Lane once again. Bale’s goal at Wigan in April was a bit of a fluke, but there was nothing lucky about his strike at Southampton on May 4th. The Welshman cut inside, beating Luke Shaw, before firing an unstoppable shot from distance past Artur Boruc. His effort against Sunderland on the last day of the season was remarkably similar. It wasn’t enough to secure Champions League football, however. Bale won awards for Premier League Player’s Player of the Season and Football Writers Player of the Season for 2013/14.

Bale signed for Real Madrid for a world record fee of €100,000,000 on September 1st 2013. He scored early into his debut on 14th September, the equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal.