Gareth Bale must recapture his Wales enthusiasm at club level again

It’s no secret that Gareth Bale has found the last year or so at Real Madrid tough going. The Welsh winger has been made a scapegoat by sections of the Spanish press, criticising him for everything from playing golf to leaving the Santiago Bernabeu too quickly after games. It’s remarkable that he has put up with it this long.

Indeed, Bale was on the brink of finally leaving Real Madrid during the summer with the 30-year-old expected to make the move to the Chinese Super League. However, the deal fell through at the last moment and the Welshman still finds himself in the Spanish capital. His future has never been so unclear.

Bale has actually played well at times for Real Madrid this season, but a recent interview given ahead of Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Hungary revealed the depth of his unhappiness at the club. “I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales,” Bale said.

“I’ve been with most of the older players since we were in the under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. But it doesn’t change what I do on the pitch. I always give 100% on the pitch wherever I am; that’s what I always strive to do.”

At 30 years old, Bale still has plenty more to offer. If he can stay injury-free, he might have another three to four years left at the top level. And yet Bale is wasting what remaining time he has as an elite player. He must seek to recapture the enthusiasm he has playing for Wales at club level.

That might involve finally leaving Real Madrid. The Spanish club have done all they can to push Bale out the door. So far, the Welshman has been reluctant to leave. By staying, though, Bale is only doing himself more damage. He needs a fresh start. He needs a new club where he will be harnessed.

Wales have got the best out of Bale in recent times. Like most players, the winger plays at his best when the environment he finds himself in is a healthy one. Real Madrid is a toxic environment for Bale. That doesn’t look like changing any time soon. If he enjoys himself more with Wales, he should like to find something similar in a new club.

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Who is Daniel James and is he worth the money?


Given how a lot of the transfer news circulates around social media, especially through Twitter, majority of football fans prefer to keep up to date through this method rather than awaiting for the breaking news on BBC Sport or Sky Sports News. With how reliable the likes of David Ornstein, Gianluca Di Marzio and Mohamed Bouhafsi are, it’s not a surprise to see how things have changed over the last couple of years.

The similar situation was with Daniel James before he had joined Manchester United from Swansea City, where a potential deal seemed close in the middle of May. However, due to tragic passing away of the player’s father, both his current team and soon-to-be new club respectfully gave him enough time to grieve with his family and his friends, which was a brilliant act from the two football clubs.

Focusing more on the individual and his £15million deal to the red side of Manchester, the Old Trafford faithful are hoping that he isn’t the only attacking outlet that arrives this summer, as they lack the pure quality up front. Not only that, some of them are starting to feel that the club’s transfer policy has began to finally change, and that they are seriously targeting players by their huge potential and quality rather than by their name.

At such a low price of purchase compared to the other signings United have completed throughout the last couple of summer windows, the player himself should see his first season in the top-tier of English football as a full year to settle into the club before the expectations begin to rise. Then again, it is easier said than done, as well-known players such as Memphis Depay, Radamel Falcao and Wilfried Zaha failed to get going.

Being recognised for his incredible burst of pace, James has evolved into quite the talent over the last 12 to 18 months, allowing him to memorably earn his international debut for Wales in November 2018 whilst going onto complete 33 league appearances in the Championship. Also, he ended the season with an individual honour that will now be very dear to him, as he won Swansea City’s best Newcomer of the Year award.

Furthermore, his intelligence to work within tight areas on and off the ball has made him a dangerous wide outlet, with the full-backs unsure whether to man mark him or sit deep and defend their own half. With how highly rated he is by the Wales coach, Ryan Giggs, there is no surprise that the former United player as well as his close assistants would have advised his previous club of how incredibly talented the young whizkid is.

Not many would remember this from the 2019 January transfer window. However, James himself was actually close to signing for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United for a fee of £10million, and he had also went up to the county of Yorkshire to complete his medical too. Just a couple of minutes before the transfer deadline had passed, Swansea City pulled the plug on deal, ensuring he stays at the Liberty Stadium.

It is too early to see the type of role given to the 21-year-old, but if he goes on to becoming an instant impact as a substitution before playing a crucial part in the cup fixtures, then there is no arguments at all that prevents him from being a regular starter. And if that is the case, he could be the perfect long-term signing that both Diogo Dalot and Victor Lindelof are hoping to become, two young individuals with huge potential that came to the club with huge expectations and have already become fan favourites.

Overall, Manchester United have always been known for their attacking and dominant football, where they operate through the flanks through the wingers’ creativity and pace, which Daniel James will surely be looking to offer as the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata have failed to consistently do so in recent seasons.

Now, everyone will wait and see how his debut season goes, as he has officially become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing as the manager of the club…..

Will Zidane axe Bale at Real Madrid next season?


Was Gareth Bale’s fate sealed at Real Madrid when Zinedine Zidane made a stunning return back to the club a few weeks ago? Well that is open to debate but when we think of Bale and Zidane’s relationship we think of immediately what happened after the Champions League final last year.

Even though Madrid had just beaten Liverpool to win their 3rd straight Champions League title and their 4th in 5 years, Zidane was being coy and Bale was being irritable. It felt that change was imminent- and it was. Gone was Ronaldo to Juventus and Zidane quit the club, and Bale stayed.

In the following season it was painfully evident that Madrid had lost too much quality and Bale was not able to carry the club, even though he has scored 14 goals this season. The famously difficult Madrid fans have really vented their anger and frustration at Bale, easily one of their best players in the last decade and even Ronaldo would get booed at times.

But fan negativity has been hard on Bale who knows that his quality would be appreciated much differently at another club. Zidane has made it clear that he sees no problem with Bale, but given that there is still two months of the season to go this is what the Frenchman is going to say.

Madrid need change at the club that is evident and whilst Bale is good enough to play for many more years, the fact that he has already been at the Bernabeu for 6 seasons and is 29, he is sellable. Zidane will understand that money will be available for his side, but that selling Bale could bring in anything between 80-100m extra which is going to give the club’s spending that much more power.

It is not that Bale isn’t good enough, the real issue lies with the fact that Zidane who is ever trying to refresh his sides will simply want new blood, and if Bale is sold in the summer which does look expected he should leave a hero and one of the very best players to have played for Madrid in the last 10 years.

As far as which club would Bale join, the offers should be plenty and of course there will be a temptation for him to come back to the Premier League. A return to Tottenham should not be ruled out and it would be an emotional one for the Welshman- a new stadium for Tottenham together with Bale’s return would be magic.

Otherwise such is the quality of Bale that he could play in any major league and with his fitness at a great level he has at least four years at the very top.

Aaron Ramsey should join Juventus if he wants to become a complete player


It’s not everyday that Juventus come calling for you, and what will end up being Arsenal’s loss and Juventus’ gain could well happen this summer when the Arsenal playmaker Aaron Ramsey becomes a free agent.

Arsenal seem to have made a faux pas in letting Ramsey wind down his career, only last season he was voted as the best Arsenal player by the fans which was the 2nd time he had won it. Ramsey is a player that in todays market could fetch anywhere between £40-£60m but in the summer he will be leaving for absolutely nothing.

The reasoning seems to be down to new manager Unai Emery who just can’t fit him into his system and it is the reason that Ramsey has had to start games from the bench. At 28 the Welshman seems to be getting better and better in his role, but it is clear that role is not with Arsenal anymore.

But with Juventus calling Ramsey needs to make the jump to them or any other big continental club. It might be that the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea could throw in their interest, but staying in the Premier League would not be a good move for the player.

Just take a look at his Wales teammate Gareth Bale for evidence. Bale has been utterly brilliant for Real Madrid, and has on the face of it become the greatest British import of all time. It isn’t the fact that Bale has won numerous trophies in his time in Spain, although that does help. But also Bale has grown as a player and reached the potential of his footballing capabilities, few football players ever get to that level but when Bale made that decision to go to Spain he opened the door.

If Ramsey does join Juventus he will be bathed in a rich history of a team that accept nothing more than winning. He will have Cristiano Ronaldo as a teammate and will be most likely be setting him for chances.

It would be a massive move for the player and the obvious obstacles would be the new culture and change of language, but surely that is worth the pay off? Footballers are immensely lucky in the fact that when they move to a foreign land they are instantly looked after and respected, and the Italian game may just suit Ramsey’s one down to a tea, or an Italian cappuccino.

Wales fail to make World Cup 2018 despite consistency

Perhaps the problem for Wales was being far too consistent and predictable in terms of approach and the familiar faces in the starting lineup. Some may argue Gareth Bale’s absence from the critical encounter versus the Republic of Ireland doomed the chances of the Welsh.

Despite failing to qualify for World Cup 2018, the Welsh can take solace in the fact that for a second successive qualification campaign, Chris Coleman and his squad remained competitive till the end. Coleman was able to call upon almost the same players the last 3 years.

Of all the player who helped beat Belgium 3-1 in the quarter finals of Euro 2016, only two did not feature for Wales in Tbilisi, as they beat Georgia 1-0 on October 6th, 2017. One of those players was the injured Bale. Continue reading

Brilliant Bale influential for Wales once again

Euro 2016

Gareth Bale’s career thus far is characterized by an affluence of wonderful performances, which the 27-year-old possesses the ability to produce, even when not in his imperious best form.

The Real Madrid forward provided a vivid illustration of that as he helped Wales begin their 2018 World Cup Qualifying Campaign with a resounding 4-0 victory over Moldova.

As well as providing an assist for Sam Vokes to give Wales the lead with a header, Bale scored two goals himself, whilst he tormented the Moldovan defence throughout the game by embarking upon a series of direct and purposeful runs.

Leading the Welsh attack

Many of those, as they frequently do, started deep inside the Welsh half, as Bale was once again the fulcrum of his country’s attack, as he has so often been since debuting on the international stage in May 2006.

Then aged just 16 years and 315 days, Bale became the youngest player to ever play for Wales.  Whilst that record is still intact, the former Southampton and Tottenham star is also the youngest player ever to score for Y Dreigiau, as at the age of 17 years and 83 days, he opened his international goal – scoring account with a sublime free-kick during a 5-1 Euro 2008 qualification defeat to Slovakia.

Subsequently following his brace against Moldova, Bale has now scored 24 international goals.  That means that he is within four goals of Ian Rush’s record of 28, which Bale undoubtedly has the potential to surpass during Wales’ 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign, particularly since manager Chris Coleman assigns him the responsibility of taking free-kicks and penalties.

The ever – reliable and vitally important Bale

In terms of honouring that responsibility, Wales’ talisman invariably does so with the utmost efficiency, with that being the case against Moldova, as he scored his second goal with a clinically despatched penalty kick.

In doing so Bale showed great composure and confidence.  Those are two attributes that he exudes whilst playing for his country, which not only positively influence his own performance but also that of his teammates.

Just as Bale is so loyal and supportive of them during games, they construct a solid platform upon which their talisman can showcase his vast array of skills, as he continues to build an excellent international career and strives to play an influential role in helping Wales reach their first World Cup finals since 1958.

Bale vital to Wales’ World Cup Qualification hopes 

Ultimately towards achieving that, Wales have taken a very positive maiden step as a result of beating Moldova 4-0, whilst they will continue their qualification campaign next month – October – with an away game against Austria, followed by a home fixture with Georgia.

Whilst representing significant challenges to Wales, Coleman’s side are nevertheless capable of emerging triumphant from both of those games, particularly if during them Bale continues to exert the wonderfully positive influence that he so often and reliably does for his country.

Of vital importance to their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup is Bale, as not only is he capable of providing and scoring goals, but when on the field of play, the prodigiously talented forward inspires and invites his teammates to produce their best form.  More often than not they have responded positively to that, as Wales are now firmly established as an excellent international team, within which Bale continues to play an influential role.

Five players whose stock unexpectedly rose drastically at Euro 2016

Group E Belgium vs Italy

International tournaments are being watched by millions of football fans, but also by every important human being in every club management. It is therefore one of the best ways for a player to put himself in the spotlights.

A bunch of internationals made their stock rise during Euro 2016, but the following five did so in an unexpected and drastic way.

Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy – Sunderland)

Italy weren’t expected to do much in France, but the Azzurri beat Belgium in their opening game of the tournament and went on to beat Spain before losing to Germany on penalty’s in the quarter-finals. Emanuele Giaccherini was a key player in Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 formation and has seen has stock rise dramatically.

The 31-year-old failed to live up to the expectations at Sunderland and played on loan at Bologna last season. He’s set to depart the Black Cats and even Chelsea have called. Giaccherini is most likely to end up in Serie A, but his goal against Belgium, endless work rate en timely forward runs have made him an unexpected wanted man this summer.

Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales – free agent)

“Without doubt, running down my contract at Reading was the best decision of my life. Reading wanted me to stay, but I felt it was the right time to move and take my future in my own hands. I always believed in myself,” Hal Robson-Kanu said after scoring a Cruyff-like goal in Wales’ quarter-final win against Belgium, as reported by the Daily Mirror.

The 27-year-old striker is a free agent after Reading let him go, and scored twice for the Dragons at Euro 2016, as he also hit the net in a group stage encounter with Slovakia. Robson-Kanu is hunted by many clubs, including a couple from the Premier League, and will make his decision soon. One that nobody could have imagined a couple of weeks ago.

Balazs Dzsudzsak (Hungary – Bursaspor)

It took Hungary play-offs to make it to France and nobody expected them to quality from Group F with Portugal, Austria, and Iceland. But they did, as Hungary even won the group with five points. The Hungarians drew against Iceland and Portugal, and beat Austria. Their star player, Balazs Dzsudzsak, found himself at the heart of their success.

The 29-year-old scored a beautiful brace against Cristiano Ronaldo and co, while showcasing his speed, creativity, and work rate in midfield. The former PSV player left Russian Dinamo Moscow for Bursaspor last summer, but he’s primed to jump to a bigger league like the Bundesliga due to the interest by a number of German clubs.

Marko Pjaca (Croatia – Dinamo Zagreb)

You must have done something right when Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli, and Borussia Dortmund are engaging in a bidding war for your services. That is the case for Marko Pjaca, who showcased his speed and dribbling skills on Croatia’s wing during games against Spain and Portugal.

The 21-year-old played just 103 minutes at Euro 2016, but made his mark in a big way. He’s primed to leave Dinamo Zagreb and is already being compared to Germany’s Julian Draxler. Milan look to have to upper hand for now, but Pjaca’s performances in France have nearly doubled his market value.

Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland – Hamilton Academical)

Only three goalkeepers made more saves at Euro 2016 than Northern Ireland’s Michael McGovern, who had 17 as his country made an astonishing run which ended with a 1-0 loss to Wales in the round of 16. Those three keepers were Poland’s Lukasz Fabianski (19), Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois (20), and Iceland’s Hannes Halldorsson (27).

The 31-year-old was the highest-rated goalkeeper of the group stages, according to Opta statistics. He was most impressive during Northern Ireland’s encounter with World Champions Germany, which they lost only 1-0. McGovern made a series of superb saves against the Germans, making his search for a club this summer a lot easier.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo desperate to atone for past failure in the European Championships

cristiano ronaldo portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo scored one and assisted the other for Portugal in a 2-0 win over Wales in Wednesday’s Euro 2016 semi-final clash at the Stade des Lumières. And with Portugal now in the final of the European Championships for the first time in 12 years, the Real Madrid attacker revealed after the game how determined he is to make amends for their past failure.

Portugal will be underdogs going into the game as they’ll face a tournament favourite in France or Germany, but Ronaldo is full of confidence in his side. He believes Portugal can overcome any obstacle put in front of them, and lauded the team with praise after finally winning a game in Euro 2016 in 90 minutes.

“The team did a marvellous job to reach the final. It’s what we have dreamt of since the beginning. We knew it would be a long road and we’re still in the tournament. I hope on Sunday you’ll see me crying with joy. I always said I wanted to win something with Portugal. We’re closer to doing it and I believe that we’ll win. I’ve been at the highest level for 13 years. The statistics never lie,” he said.

Portugal’s route to the final has been interesting given they hadn’t won a game in normal time prior to the semi-final victory over Wales. Fernando Santos’ men finish third in Group F with just three points from a possible nine, despite having a group featuring Hungary, Iceland and Austria. Nevertheless, they proved their credentials by doing enough in the knockouts to dispatch of the much-fancied Croatia and Poland.

It took an extra time goal from Portugal to put Croatia to the sword in the last-16, and they went to penalties against Poland in the quarter-finals. Fernando Santos’ side can only beat what has been put in front of them, and with the second-most clean sheets in the tournament going into the final, Portugal are perhaps deserved of more credit in truth.

Cristiano Ronaldo has had a topsy-turvy tournament, missing a host of chances in games, but always looking the most likely to get on the scoresheet for his country. He’s enjoyed playing up front with former Manchester United teammate Luis Nani, and the chemistry of the two players has led to three goals scored each from five games, as well as three assists in total. Ronaldo, for all his criticism, was key to Portugal’s victory against Wales and could be the difference in the final.

Did Wales look tired in Euro 2016 semi-final defeat to Portugal?

Wales were denied a place in the Euro 2016 final after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Portugal at the Stade des Lumières in Wednesday night’s semi-final, and after the game manager Chris Coleman admitted his players looked fatigued. While Wales had plenty of days to prepare for the encounter, it was clear from the performance that something wasn’t right with the side.

“It hurts that we lost the semi-final, the players are gutted, but they need to look back and see they have done their country proud. They could only give what they had and we looked a bit tired tonight. We never really found our momentum when we had possession, but you have to give Portugal credit, they defended deep and killed our space,” said Coleman.

The Dragons relinquished possession so cheaply, looked nervous to collect the ball in dangerous areas, and were making silly mistakes that almost led to Portugal taking an earlier lead. Wales certainly missed midfielder Aaron Ramsey from the side, and the players on the pitch looked mentally tired. Ultimately a three-minute crumble proved costly to the outcome.

“That first goal was going to be crucial. We just lost our concentration for five minutes and when you are up against quality in the semi-final of a tournament like this, Portugal unfortunately capitalised on that. We’ve done plenty of winning. Tonight it is our turn to lose, but congratulations to Portugal and I hope they go on to win the tournament,” added the Wales manager.

It took a monumental effort in the quarter-finals to earn victory over the much-fancied Belgium, but their clash against Portugal appeared to be one step too far for Wales. Gareth Bale tried valiantly to create chances, but he fell short at the Stade des Lumières. Midfielder Andy King, who came in for Ramsey, came close to converting a couple of chances, but didn’t affect the game as he would have liked.

“I think anybody is going to miss Ramsey, especially the way he has been playing. But it is about the squad. I was delighted with King. We were a little bit tired tonight. Balo (Gareth Bale) is a human being. He worked his socks off and tried everything to get us back in the game. I’m proud of all of them. Sometimes we don’t get what we want in terms of performance, but we also have to look at the opposition, because the opposition played very well,” said Coleman.

The Wales manager was keen to add how the journey isn’t over for the players, and hopes they can go on to fulfil their dreams of trophy success on the international stage. They certainly lit up the Euros.

Cristiano Ronaldo sends Portugal into the Euro 2016 final

cristiano ronaldo portugal

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo was the difference as Wales fell to the sword in the Euro 2016 semi-final at the Stade des Lumières on Wednesday evening. Scoring one and assisting the other, the Real Madrid attacker proved his worth on the grand stage to send the deserved winners to the final, 12 years on from their last in the European Championships.

The Dragons started tentatively, and in truth never managed to settle into the game to get a foothold. Portugal were typically hard to break through, while showcasing little attacking threat themselves for the large part. As a result, it wasn’t a big surprise to see the two sides going into the break goalless.

However, it was first-blood to Portugal not long into the second-half, and in just three minutes Wales had all but lost the encounter. Ronaldo leapt brilliantly to head home from a corner, before his shot was steered in by former Manchester United teammate Nani to double Portugal’s advantage.

Wales looked to their talisman in Gareth Bale for inspiration, but his long shots from distance never failed to breach Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal, nor were any of his balls into the box converted. The Real Madrid forward tried to make up for the loss to chief playmaker Aaron Ramsey by adopting a deeper role to drive with the ball into the final third, but it led to Bale being the first man in Wales’ attack rather than the last.

The 26-year-old wasn’t the only player who struggled, however. Hal Robson-Kanu, who was a hero of Wales’ semi-final win over Belgium, was substituted in the second-half. Joe Allen didn’t crown himself in glory either, spurning a number of passes in the midfield, while being caught in possession one too many times.

Wales looked nervous throughout the encounter with Portugal, and hardly tested the opposition goalkeeper in the 90 minutes at the Stade des Lumières. Portugal have been criticised for their defensive style, as well as having failed to win in normal time prior to the Wales clash. But their organisation led to Chris Coleman’s side failing to make a break through.

Portugal were without two key defensive players with centre-back Pepe injured and midfielder William Carvalho suspended, and they had changed their left-back for the semi-final. However, Wales didn’t take advantage of the changes to their opponent’s backline. While exceeding expectations in the tournament, manager Chris Coleman may have some regrets that his side didn’t put enough pressure on the makeshift Portugal defence.

Nevertheless, the Dragons will be full of pride of how they’ve performed in the 2016 European Championships, but it will be Portugal in the final to face France or Germany.