Photography: Action Images
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By Andre Villas-Boas
Another season has gone by. A few players have stood out, a few players caught the eye and a few have been at another level.
Some, though, were simply outstanding. And in that small group is Gareth Bale.
As a manager you can only get to know a player fully when you start working with him. You see what makes him tick, get to know his personality and his character intimately and you see what he enjoys to do or not to do on the pitch.
Gareth had an impressive impact on me and my staff for the obvious reasons that we all know: his power, his leap and the innate talent that he has.
Everybody has seen that during our games this season but it’s away from the public eye in training where I’ve been privileged to witness his brilliance.
I was amazed by his ability to stop, turn, accelerate and change direction at incredible speed yet still remain composed enough to slot in that cross, that final pass or the shot which could make the difference on any given matchday.
Can Gareth evolve and become better? Like every player and like all of us in our profession, you have to say yes.
In the same way as Ajax and Barcelona breed their young players, Gareth’s experiences as a left-back, a winger and a striker have allowed him to live and experience different situations in the game to which he has had to adapt. When all of that knowledge becomes instinctive he will be able to further develop his game and we will continue to enjoy watching him play.
During pre-season in Baltimore, when I first approached Gareth to play as a lone striker his response was: “I can try, but it’s not my position.” How lucky can a manager be that out of an experiment you discover something that can work!
In my opinion, any single individual award that is won in a sport where you are so dependent on your team-mates is not always fair, but I raise a glass to the person who in their biggest moments of glory is able to recognise the importance of the ones that surround them on a daily basis and are able to share that glory with them.
Gareth has done exactly that with all of us at Tottenham Hotspur when he joined that elite group of players to have added the Footballer of the Year award to recognition by the PFA.
That is down to Gareth’s humbleness and transparency as a person and makes him stand out as a great sportsman.
Congratulations Gareth it is a pleasure to work with you and an honour to be your manager.
This article is in the brochure for the Footballer of the Year Dinner at the Lancaster London, May 9.