Gareth Bale is currently engulfed in a storm of transfer speculation, with hundreds of thousands of fans wanting to know whether he will stay at Tottenham Hotspur and try and get them into the Champions League next season, or whether he will head to Spain and spearhead a Real Madrid team that is aiming to dominate the whole of Europe.
The one team that many aren’t considering is the team that actually needs him most – the Welsh national team. Whereas Andre Villas-Boas and Carlo Ancelotti are considering pairing him up with Brazilian international Paulinho or Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Chris Coleman is desperately hoping that the Welshman will turn up at all, in order to drive the squad forward.
Not since Ryan Giggs has Wales had such an incredibly talented star in their ranks – although Bale is proving much more committed than his Manchester United compatriot, making himself available for all friendlies. At the age of just 24 the Tottenham midfielder has achieved 41 caps, while in Giggs’ 16 years for the national side he only took part in 64 matches.
Now is the time for the Welsh FA to implement some real change and set out a plan if they want to capitalise on the success the country is enjoying and finally get themselves to an international competition for the first time since 1958. The European Championships in France in three years time is a target that should be aimed for if this current blossoming isn’t to be wasted.
Wales has never had its two biggest clubs, Cardiff City and Swansea City, in the top flight of the English pyramid at the same time. Last season the Premier League featured 14 players who were of Welsh nationality (the same number of Brazilians who played in the league), whereas this season there is the potential to increase that number as Cardiff joins the league.
Combine the opportunity to play world-class football with the huge cash injection that Swansea and Cardiff are now enjoying after the latest, and most lucrative, television deal in English football history, and the future looks bright.
Both clubs have brought in fantastic talent this year in the shape of Andreas Cornelius and Wilfried Bony, but both are also looking to improve their youth academies and training facilities, with the aim of bringing through the next generation of Welsh players.
Considering that Wales has all these benefits, it is disappointing that in the latest FIFA rankings the country finds itself in 46th place, between Slovenia and Australia – both of whom featured at the latest World Cup in South Africa without any of the advantages the tiny country of three million has enjoyed.
Many will look up to the senior members of Welsh football, including the FAW and national team coach Chris Coleman, to create a plan forward in which Wales can combine all of its brilliant attributes into the success on the pitch.
When Michael Laudrup and his Swansea squad have set such a shining example of attacking football in the Premier League, and shown the success it brings, it seems naïve to not try and replicate those results in the national team. Couldn’t Wales take a leaf out of Spain’s book and replicate the football of its top club team?
Tighter co-operation between all those parties is vital. Certain areas in Wales are particularly isolated and lack the facilities needed to create top-class athletes, so the FAW should be looking to venture into these communities and give the opportunity for young people there to unlock their potential.
As the economic problems impact on so many families in the UK, financial assistance needs to be offered to help with transport fees and purchasing relevant sports equipment. When you oversee the development of such a small country, no rock can be left unturned in the search for talent.
In every scenario, the man around whom everything will revolve is Gareth Bale. In the near future at least, nothing can be achieved at a national level without the world-class midfielder being a constant feature in the national team. Hopefully the passion and skill that he demonstrates will prove to be the stimulus that the football community in Wales needs to try and capitalise on this gift they have been given.