The Ever-Changing Look of Gareth Bale
When Gareth Bale made his football debut as a skinny 16-year-old left-back, no one could have known he would emerge to become the world's most expensive player, plying his trade with the European champions.
Bale's success story has been fairly unexpected; an eventful journey accompanied by many changes in looks, physique and demeanour.
Allows us to guide you through the past eight years of Bale's career, from boy to muscle-bound perma-tanned man.
October 2006: The Spindly Left-Back
Gareth Bale made his first appearance for Wales as a fresh-faced 16-year-old. Here he is in October 2006 on national team duty, with a full future of not appearing in summer tournaments ahead of him.
Note the lack of muscles, tan and hairbands.
Also, he's wearing a white bandage on his wrist, something he has continued to this day without much good reason.
January 2007: The Saint Marching in
Bale was given his big break by Southampton, whom he represented in the 2006/07 season.
Here he is hiding his diminished frame under a baggy long-sleeved shirt—a far cry from the "bro tanks" he wears in Madrid training today.
May 2007: Wet Wet Wet
Here's GB in the final game he ever played for the Saints, a Championship playoff semifinal fist leg against Derby, in which he picked up an injury.
At this stage, his hair was styled like he was a member of Arctic Monkeys (no pun intended).
July 2007: The Spurs New Boy
Bale was brought to Tottenham in the same summer as Darren Bent and Younes Kaboul, the latter looking absolutely terrifying here.
Bale appears here as a scruffy teenager, who is vaguely reminiscent of the kid from the Mad magazine covers.
August 2008: Getting Established
Bale had a rough start at the Lane—it was thought he was cursed when Spurs didn't win in any of the first 20 games in which he started—and he didn't earn too much time on the field in 2008-09.
When Harry Redknapp did give him the time of day, we saw the Welshman rock his unkempt Mod hairdo, while his growing propensity to wear short sleeves showed off his improving physique.
November 2010: The Beginning of the Hair Products Era
In the 2010-11 season, GB really started to turn some heads. Accordingly, he started to invest a little more in his image.
In this picture, we see Bale has morphed the shaggy crop into a more fashionable mohawk style. He's also wearing 2010's greatest annoying footballer fashion item, the snood.
November 2010: Taxi for Maicon!
Bale's evolution from a timid left-back to a world-beating winger started to take shape in Tottenham's 2010/11 Champions League campaign, particularly the home game against Internazionale.
In that game, he continually made Inter right-back Maicon eat his dust, prompting a "Taxi for Maicon!" chant from the home fans.
His hair looked neater and his sinewy frame looked like it was starting to take shape. Just look at the biceps on show here!
November 2011: The Short Crop
By the 2011/12 season, a 21-year-old Gareth had left his gawky teenage looks well in the past.
Here he is playing an invisible piano in training, with a tight, short crop that does a good job of hiding his ears.
March 2012: Topless at Tottenham
Bale's current Adonis-like upper-body has clearly been a few years in the making.
Here he is at the end of 2011-12, presumably taking part in a shirts vs. skins match. Clearly he has been hitting the gym.
This may also be the start of GB's quest to subliminally transform into Cristiano Ronaldo. He clearly has no qualms about showing off his physique, and there is evidence of his attempts to banish his body hair on his chest.
May 2012: The Monaco Fashionista
As Bale's profile rose, so too did his propensity to show off his Topman 2.0 fashion sensibilities.
Here he is at the Monaco Grand Prix wearing one of his many "deep V" t-shirts, teamed with a stylish belt and I'm-a-famous-person sunglasses.
July 2012: 2 Tickets to the Gun Show
Tottenham kit supplier Under Armour didn't satiate Bale's desire for bro tanks in the 2012-13 season, so while on a pre-season tour of the USA, he did the next best thing—he rolled the sleeves into his shirt and formally handed out two tickets to the gun show.
Thankfully, in America, he has the right to bear (his) arms.
December 2012: Mr Heart Hands
Bale was Tottenham's most important player in the 2012-13 season, and he was starting to attract the attention of some of Europe's biggest suitors.
Showing his willingness to become a global brand, he started regularly using his "heart hands" celebration every time he scored, which was quite regularly.
Later that season, he would attempt to copyright the gesture, which tells you everything you need to know about modern football.
May 2013: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Bale's haircut game took a significant step near the end of his Tottenham career, when he went for an ultra-fashionable side-parting and shorn back-and-sides.
Is it any coincidence that Ronaldo had a vaguely similar hairstyle at the time?
This is a man who is ready to become a Madridista.
August 2013: The New Cristiano
After a summer spent in transfer saga purgatory, Bale's move to Real Madrid finally started to materialise at the end of August 2013.
While out and about in London, the Welshman was spotted in a pink backwards baseball cap and matching t-shirt.
He might as well have carried a sign that read: "I WISH MY NAME WAS CRISTIANO."
September 2013: The Medical
Every single new Real Madrid signing is required to give a cheesy topless thumbs-up pose during their medical, and the current most expensive player in the world was no exception.
His upper-body muscles and six-pack are conspicuous by their absence, but at least his drastic side parting is completely on-point.
July 2014: The Hairband
While his Real Madrid teammates were out in Brazil at the World Cup, the Welsh wonder kept himself busy with two projects: bulking up and growing out his hair.
Like David Beckham, Lionel Messi and, er, Alan Smith before him, Bale has now succumbed to the charms of a hair band.
Here he is on Los Blancos' U.S. tour last month demanding you pay his new style some attention.
August 2014: Mr Muscles
And so we reach today's Gareth Bale: Tanned, with slick long hair and the look of a man who knows a thing or two about the weight room.
Suffice to say, it's a fairly drastic transformation from the gangling boy who debuted at St. Mary's.