Gareth Bale is dominating the news agenda this month.
First, the Spurs winger drew criticism for playing for Spurs against LA Galaxy, rather trivializing the back injury cited for his withdrawal from the Team GB Olympic squad. And now he's spitting bile in the direction of Charlie Adam, after the Liverpool midfielder threatened to put him back on the treatment table.
Adam and Bale have history. In May 2011, Adam stamped on Bale's ankle in the colors of Blackpool, causing ligament damage that forced the Welshman out for three months. He was fortunate not to be charged by the FA.
Fast forward 14 months and Adam is now a Liverpool player—albeit a frustrated one after an underwhelming, injury-blighted first season at Anfield, which culminated in the departure of the manager who wanted him, Kenny Dalglish. Adam wasn't as costly as Stewart Downing or Andy Carroll, but his name still belongs alongside theirs in the "transfer mistakes" column at Liverpool.
The Scot is desperate to put that right and rebuild his reputation as a classy creative midfielder under Brendan Rodgers. But given a platform against Tottenham on Saturday, he instead promoted the unsavory side of his game.
With Bale running away from him, and towards the Liverpool defense, Adam dragged a right boot down on his ankle and cynically stopped him in his tracks. A trip you could excuse, but this was the kind of challenge that can hurt a player badly—a cheap shot that bore similarities to the one he put upon Bale at White Hart Lane two seasons ago.
Bale played on, but was replaced shortly after halftime and left the M&T Bank Stadium with a protective cast supporting his injured left ankle. Their was no protecting Adam from his angry reaction after the game, however.
Said Bale, as per the Telegraph:
He's obviously come for me twice now and he's got me twice. From what I've seen of him on pitch, I think he's a bit of a coward.
There are pictures on the internet of what he did before when he snapped all my ankle ligaments. I was out for three months that time and one player told me he went out to do the same thing to me again.
It's flattering when players try to take you out in a game but when it threatens your career, it becomes more serious that that. I would have understood it had it been a slightly miss-timed tackle, even though it was just a friendly.
But the ball was 10 yards past him already and was nowhere near him when he came through my ankle. It's unsportsmanlike and I don't think any player should be like that. That's what kind of person he is like—he's done it before. I was surprised to see a challenge like that in a friendly.
Tottenham fullback Kyle Walker was equally enraged by the incident, which he put down to Adam's "jealousy" of Bale.
"It just keeps coming up that he doesn't really like him (Bale)," Walker said of Adam (Goal.com). "Players shouldn't hate Gareth, they should appreciate playing against a player like him. They could actually learn from him, rather than kick him. He's a great player."
Adam has yet to comment. According to Bale there's been no apology and he wouldn't accept one if it arrived.
Adam was already due a hostile reception at White Hart Lane this season. It was there he hurt Bale in May 2011, and there, in September last year, he was sent off for a foul on Scott Parker. Football fans don't forget. And after his controversial tackle on Saturday you wouldn't be surprised if Adam was left out for Liverpool's Premier League visit to north London in November.
But are we all getting a little carried away here?
Shouldn't a combative midfielder be excused his dalliances with the dark side? Isn't that what made Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira the players we laud to this day? And isn't a little bit of nasty exactly what you need to stop players like Bale ripping you to pieces?
Some would say yes, but there are limits, and there can be no condoning the two tackles Adam has made on Bale. It's one thing going in strong and ensuring the other man comes off worse; it's another entirely taking a pot shot at a prone player with his back turned.
Keane made some booming, bloodcurdling tackles. But his revenge attack on Alf-Inge Haaland was a sickening assault which had no place in sport. It wasn't brave and it wasn't clever. And it unquestionably tarnished his reputation.
If Adam isn't careful, his reputation is in danger too—and to a certain extent, Liverpool's with it. For that reason, the 26-year-old would be wise to issue a public apology to Bale and move on from their feud before it erupts into something more sinister.
Bale should be careful too. By speaking so openly about Adam's tackle he's making it known he was riled by it. Coaches are listening, and the precocious Welshman will likely be in for plenty more roughhousing when the season begins in earnest.
Great players don't complain. He should let his talent do the talking. Adam should do the same, and start channeling his frustration more productively.