Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale has been one of the most hyped-up players in world football ever since he wowed the world with two consecutive world-class performances in 2010 against the reigning European champions at the time, Inter Milan.
These performances put Bale on the map in terms of being one of the best left wingers in the world, and simultaneously officially marked the beginning of Inter Milan right-back Maicon's fall from grace.
However, these performances had a secondary effect, countering all the praise that Bale was beginning to receive from the media, a counter-movement was born, a movement which claimed that Gareth Bale was over-hyped and did not have the abilities to match all the plaudits that he receives.
To be fair, this movement did have some very strong points to its case.
In the Premier League, Gareth Bale managed seven goals and two assists, all of which came in a total of six games, meaning that Bale provided no statistical contribution in the other 25 league games he played in that season.
Additionally, this was the first season that Bale was performing at a high level, and yet he was being labelled one of the best in the game after just two top-level performances.
Many believed that he had to show much greater consistency and potency on the stat sheet to deserve the plaudits that he was already receiving.
However, this season, Gareth Bale has shown that he is indeed worthy of being called one of the best left wingers in the world.
Though he, along with the rest of Tottenham's starters, has been largely kept out of Spurs' Carling Cup and Europa League campaigns (both of which are now over), Bale has shone brightly in the EPL.
After a slow start to the season, Bale has now scored six goals and assisted five in Tottenham's last eight league matches. He scored the only two goals in Tottenham's 2-0 victory over Norwich City today.
This boost in production hasn't come simply from Bale stepping up his game; his excellent chemistry with Emmanuel Adebayor has been a major factor in his improved statistical output.
Nevertheless, the improvement is quite a remarkable one, and has been one of the keys to Spurs' good run of form this season, which has seen them become favorites for a Champions League berth at the end of the season.
Harry Redknapp praised Gareth Bale in his post-match interview today, calling him an "amazing player" and "sometimes unstoppable."
I'd go one step further and say that he's well on his way to being the best left winger in world football.
Considering the fact neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Juan Mata are "true" left wingers, his only challenger for the title is Franck Ribery, who is brilliant but will be 29 years old at the end of the season, whereas Gareth Bale will still be just 22.
In a couple of years, Ribery will be in decline, while Gareth Bale won't have even hit his prime yet.
Here's to hoping that Gareth Bale remains dedicated to Spurs, wards off the advances of Barcelona and keeps proving his doubters wrong.
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