Tottenham Hotspur: Is Gareth Bale Tottenham's Version of Cristiano Ronaldo?
In his response (per ESPN Soccernet), Bale was quick to praise the former Manchester United winger, concluding that "he is a benchmark for every player who wants to be that good...I'd love to be half as good as him."
The similarities between the two are fairly easy to see.
Both are wingers who are slowly making their way into the middle of the pitch to play as a central winger, or even a deep-lying forward at times.
Both are strong athletes who have a fantastic dribbling ability—able to set up their teammates with excellent crosses and through balls.
Both are proven performers at the elite level and both are natural goalscorers whom their respective clubs would be seemingly lost without this season.
And whilst Bale might still dream of being "half as good" as Ronaldo, according to Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas, the 23-year-old is already there, and closing in rapidly on the success and talent displayed by the Portuguese international.
Both of them are extremely technical players and extremely powerful and pact. Obviously it is funny to see how in some ways both players compared growing up as a striker and move to wingers.
Gareth started at left-back and moved to a winger position, now going to a more advanced role, and Ronaldo also able to play that role up front. Obviously Ronaldo is now 28, has gone and achieved so much in his career. He is an example to what Gareth wants to achieve in his career too.
I think Gareth is such a phenomenal player that he is able to do that kind of role. He has been scoring a crazy amount of goals coming in from the right wing or through the middle, rather than from the left or assisting from the left, so it means a player can explore his full potential through the middle.
Bale has clearly come on this season at the North London club, and has become an integral part in Spurs' attack as a result of his success.
WhoScored rank the Welsh winger as the second-best player across the entire league this season in terms of impact on this team, with only Liverpool's Luis Suarez deemed as having a higher average match rating than the 23-year-old.
His 21 appearances have netted 11 goals and an assist on an average of 4.5 shots per game, as well as a staggering seven man of the match awards.
No other player in the league has won seven or more.
Bale ranks top 10 in the league for average shots, goal-scoring chances created, accurate crosses as well as successful attacking dribbles per game.
And in comparison to Ronaldo, the numbers* are eerily similar.
|2.3||Avg. key passes||1.5|
|1.1||Avg. through balls||0.5|
|78.8||Pass comp. %||77.3|
* All statistics as of Feb. 8, 2013 (via WhoScored.com)
Both players have been allowed to operate centrally this season more than as a regulation winger—injecting themselves into the their team's attack.
For Madrid, Ronaldo has become the central figure rather than just the go-to man out wide. For Spurs, Bale has filled perfectly the void up front as a result of injuries and international duties to various players throughout the season so far.
Villas-Boas has recognized well the skill-set and attacking creativity that Bale brings to the table, and has utilized him well in the "Ronaldo-role" this year.
The 23-year-old is afforded the freedom to dribble and run where he wants, as well as the chance to push further up the field in attack. And a result, success has flowed in for both the Welsh international as well as the North London club he plays for.
Villas-Boas said a similar thing (per ESPN Soccernet):
The most important thing is to get the players feeling well about what they do for the team. And I think Gareth feels well in that position. If he's able to fulfil his full potential it's something we have to consider for the future.
We know that he has grown out on the left. On the left he becomes a different type of player. I'm not sure if it limits his full potential.
In the way we play we give him the freedom to change positions anyway. It's something that at least is having a positive impact on him.
And not only him, it's having a positive impact on the club.
Spurs are flying-high in fourth position having achieved far more this season than many expected given the departure of both Harry Redknapp and their star midfielder Luka Modric, who somewhat ironically left to go play with Ronaldo.
Their squad is strong and deep, and even given injuries and absences, have pulled through to remain inside the top four an on course for a European berth.
He has become Tottenham Hotspur's Everest this year, and will no doubt continue to be so in the future as he adapts into the central-winger role of his own.
Or the "Ronaldo-role" as it's more commonly known. Which, slowly but spectacularly, the 23-year-old Spurs star is transforming into the "Bale-role."
Just don't tell Luka Modric.
Can Gareth Bale become as good as Cristiano Ronaldo?
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