LONDON: Gareth Bale has been hailed as Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association, the original individual prize award in the English game writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
He polled 53pc of the votes, ahead of Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie (43pc) with Chelsea’s Juan Mata third. Further down the list came Luiz Suarez, Pablo Zabaleta and Santi Cazorla. Bale will receive his trophy at next year’s annual FWA award gala in London.
Tottenham’s versatile, across-all-fronts raider has been in outstanding form all season with the pace to scare even the quickest opposing defender and both power and delicacy of touch to keep goalkeepers on their nerves.
His 24 goals in 40 games in all competitions this season have far outstripped the 12 he managed during the entirety of the previous campaign and 11 in 2010-2011. These include 19 goals in the Premier League, placing the midfielder third behind only out-and-out strikers Robin Van Persie (25 for Manchester United) and Luis Suarez (23 for Liverpool).
Last week Bale was voted Player of the Year as well as Young Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union. He is the first player since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007 to win both awards in the same year.
The 23-year-old has been one of the Premier League’s most exciting talents for the past three years since his extraordinary home and away displays against Internazionale in the 2010-2011 Champions League.
This season he appears to be achieving even greater feats, not only tormenting defences with his explosive bursts down the left-wing but also enjoying a more wide-roaming role.
The season’s only setbacks – an unfortunate comedy own goal against Liverpool aside – were concerns over a series of yellow cards for simulation.
However Bale and his manager Andre Villas-Boas argued that he is too often targeted for rough treatment by opponents and was only taking evasive action when appearing to tumble too easily.
Many fans fear that Tottenham’s failure to finish in the top four and qualify for a Champions League return would force Bale away from the club, though his contract – reportedly worth £110,000 a week – runs for another three years and his girlfriend gave birth last October to their first child, a daughter.
There would certainly be no shortage of suitors, though, if he – and Spurs’ tough-negotiating chairman Daniel Levy – were tempted by a big-money move.
Tottenham would, after all, be guaranteed a very hefty profit on the bargain £7m Bale cost them after signing from Southampton in the summer of 2007.
Bale himself said: “This is probably the best I’ve been playing so far in my career. I’m enjoying my football and the team’s playing well which obviously makes it easier for me.”
But he admitted, “I’ve still got a lot of room for improvement” – worrying words for all defenders facing him in future.