Tottenham Hotspur: Is Gareth Bale Better Than Ryan Giggs?
There will already be Manchester United fanatics ready to crucify me for even suggesting such a thing, but after Gareth Bale single-handedly turned the Welsh fortunes around vs. Scotland on Friday, and has proved to be the best player on the Tottenham team for the past few seasons, there is a case for my argument.
With comparisons between the two being made since Bale first pulled on a football shirt, is he now ready to step out of Ryan Giggs's shadow and prove himself the better player? Read on to find out.
International Teenage Sensation
Ryan Giggs was 17 years and 321 days old when he first played for Wales, becoming the youngest player ever to do so—a record he held for over seven years. However, he didn't score for Wales until two years after that game, and wasn't an instant hit.
In 2006 Gareth Bale set his own record—aged just 16 years and 315 days, when he was called up to play for Wales in a friendly. Bale then became the youngest player ever to score for the full national team in a Euro 2008 qualifier that very same year.
An immediate impact from the boy from Spurs, whereas it took the Manchester United legend longer to prove his Welsh worth.
Gareth Bale 1, Ryan Giggs 0.
Ryan Giggs broke into the Manchester United first team at the age of just 17. Since then, he has been one of the first names on the team sheet for Sir Alex Ferguson, and has scored many crucial, and spectacular goals for the Red Devils.
Images of the 1999 FA Cup Replay vs. Arsenal and Giggs' stoppage-time goal still resonate with many fans.
Gareth Bale led the charge into the top four for Tottenham Hotspur in 2009-10, allowing them to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history. However there is no denying that Giggs has been a lynchpin for United, and his skill—along with his leadership quality—is second to none.
Gareth Bale 1, Ryan Giggs 1.
Gareth Bale has already scored nine goals for Wales, in half the appearances of Ryan Giggs, who only scored 12.
There is an argument that because Ryan Giggs didn't play in an international friendly until March 2000, despite his career beginning in 1991 (via Independent), he therefore didn't get a chance to score more. However of Bale's international goals, only one of these came in a friendly match.
Bale still has years left of his career, and will no doubt end with a better record for Wales than Ryan Giggs.
Gareth Bale 2, Ryan Giggs 1.
Premier League Impact
Ryan Giggs has won 12 Premier League Titles; Gareth Bale has won 0.
But Giggs has a 16-year career advantage on his countryman, and so it would be unfair to count all 12 of Giggs's medals. However Giggs had already won three Premier League titles by the time he was Bale's age, and Bale hasn't managed one—yet.
Manchester United were untouchable in the late 1990s and early 2000s, something which Tottenham Hotspur couldn't even begin to emulate. And Ryan Giggs was a key component to United's League domination.
Gareth Bale 2, Ryan Giggs 2.
Champions League Impact
Ryan Giggs has taken his team to two Champions League victories, whereas Gareth Bale has led his team to the Champions League for the first time in their history.
Both players have been fundamental to the European success of their clubs, and both achievements are highly regarded as some of the best moments in their history. Although trophy hands down beats qualification, Manchester United and Tottenham are in two different classes, so it is tough to decide which event is bigger for either club.
However Giggs's assist for Teddy Sheringham in the 1998-99 Champions League final is enough to give him the victory on this one, all by itself.
Gareth Bale 2, Ryan Giggs 3.
Gareth Bale began his career as a left-back, and still returns to that position when required. He can play down the left, down the right, in the middle and off the front-man. He's a player who ex-manager Harry Redknapp admits "has everything." Redknapp said "he can head the ball, he's as strong as an ox, he can run, dribble and shoot. Most important of all, he's a smashing lad."
Ryan Giggs can play anywhere across the midfield but is most effective down the left wing. Giggs has been moved into the center in recent years due to becoming slower as he nears the end of his career.
However even Giggs in his prime couldn't play in defense, whereas Bale can play almost all over the park, and just edges this one.
Gareth Bale 3, Ryan Giggs 3.
This category is a walk in the park for Ryan Giggs. Aged 38, he is still playing for arguably the best club in England, at the highest level.
Giggs has scored in every single Premier League season since it began, and also holds Manchester United's all-time appearances record. This is a feat that will never be matched, and a record that Giggs can be proud of.
Gareth Bale started his career at 17, but there is only a tiny chance that he will still be playing in the Premier League 20 years after that day.
Ryan Giggs is a machine and wipes the floor with anyone and everyone in the sustainability section. Except for maybe Paul Scholes.
Gareth Bale 3, Ryan Giggs 4.
Victory... but for How Long?
Let's face it, the Premier League's all-time greatest player could never be outclassed by anyone thanks to his superb (and seemingly never-ending) career, but Bale does have the potential to outclass him in the future.
Bale's international career is thriving, and if Tottenham begin making a real challenge to the title, or if Bale moves elsewhere, he will soon have a league winner's medal around his neck.
Giggs is the most decorated player in British footballing history, but in terms of talent, Gareth Bale is beginning to match him.
So is Bale better than Giggs? No.
Well, not yet.