The riposte to Gareth Bale's virtuosity has been a predictable one—that Tottenham are too reliant on him and thus a one-dimensional team destined to implode the moment he gets injured or makes his inevitable elevation to a bigger stage.
That's the answer we provide to genius these days. It's too indulgent and naive to heap praise upon praise—where there is an overwhelming positive we must always seek out a negative. The dark side of Bale's undeniable brilliance is that his very presence undermines the team around him.
The reliance counter is the surest sign a player is doing something special. Robin van Persie was Arsenal's one-man team last season; he's Manchester United's this season. Real Madrid barely come to life if Cristiano Ronaldo isn't commanding their performance; Barcelona are a team neutralized when Lionel Messi doesn't perform to the level we've come to expect. Sweden are Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But isn't that what makes these players soar? The fact that Bale has been directly responsible for winning 31.9 percent of Tottenham's Premier League points this season—the difference between their current position of third and mid-table nothingness—is testament to his singular ability to make a difference, the best indicator imaginable of a player's worth.
The Premier League is lucky to have him. Bale has risen among the top handful of players on the planet and, on current form, would be the defining attacking force in every team bar Madrid and Barcelona. All the hype wasn't just hype—Bale is the genuine article and has been the best player in England this season.
That fact is hard for fans of other teams to accept—not least those championing Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie, the two other standout candidates for Player of the Year. "Envy plays such a big part in football that fans cannot acknowledge the brilliance of another team's star without backing up their own," wrote John Brewin for ESPNFC.
Bale's recent run of form is reminiscent of Ronaldo's assault on the Premier League between 2006 and 2009. The combination of physical prowess, technique and killer finishing make the two a natural comparison. Bale is not at Ronaldo's level yet, but he is flirting with the output we saw from the Portuguese during those years at Manchester United.
Ronaldo is a similar type of player, was at a similar stage in his career and has gone on to better himself at Madrid. You have to imagine that will play into Bale's thinking when an offer lands on a desk at White Hart Lane over the summer. Whether Spurs will be able to resist it or any of the numerous others Bale will attract, is a question Daniel Levy will already be pondering.
Spurs fans already fear the worst, but selling your best player doesn't have to end the way it always does at Arsenal. United sold Ronaldo and two seasons later were Premier League champions and back in the Champions League final. Providing Bale's fee is reinvested wisely Tottenham have every chance of maintaining their current trajectory.
In the meantime, the doubters will continue to trawl for ways to undermine their wondrous Welshman. Does Bale's solitary assist in the Premier League this season point toward a hardwired selfishness that we should see as a weakness? Should his tendency for theatrics illustrate a personality flaw? What on earth is that daft heart celebration all about?
You don't come under that kind of scrutiny for nothing. The anti-Bale lobby is testament to his rising reputation and his indefatigable excellence in Spurs' colors this season. As Ronaldo knows only too well, being special brings special attention.
As for the one-man team accusations, I don't remember Argentina worrying too much when Diego Maradona dragged them to World Cup glory in 1986. If you're a great player, being your team's defining player comes with the territory.