Comparisons of any player with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo must always be taken with a coronary-inducing pinch of salt, given that they usually involves praising someone who has played out of their skin for a month or two to reach a level that Messi and Ronaldo have produced for several years. However Gareth Bale has been in such good form this season, that there are few other players who he can be compared to, especially during the past eight games where he has produced ten goals and two assists.
The assumption is now that Bale is ready to join the elites of world football, and that it is only a matter of time before he departs Tottenham Hotspur for a European giant, most likely Barcelona or Real Madrid. This is highly likely to be his career path one day, but the best move for the Welshman would be to stay at Tottenham Hotspur for at least another season.
Whether or not Tottenham Hotspur qualify for the Champions League next season, they are club moving forward under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas, and Bale would be part of a young, exciting team that is ideally set up to utilise his talents. At 23 Bale has time on his side, and another full season could see him develop further as player, particularly in terms of his adapting to more advanced role.
So far this year, Bale has progressed hugely as Andre Villas-Boas has granted him the freedom to take on a free role in the 4-2-3-1 system Spurs have generally used. With adaptable players like Dempsey, Sigurdsson and Holtby able to move around to fill gaps left by Bale and supply him with plenty of possession, Bale has revelled in this freedom, and the way he celebrated his winning goal against West Ham suggests he is aware of the impact Andre Villas-Boas has had on his game.
Next season there is every chance Bale’s role will become more advanced at Spurs, as Andre Villas-Boas is tipped to introduce the 4-3-3 system he used at Porto, especially if he can finally complete the signing of Joao Moutinho. In this system, Bale would operate as a left forward, the role most would expect him to fill for most of the rest of his career.
Whilst he has already shown his ability to take on a more advanced role this year, he has not had a full season in as a forward, and there is surely no club that would give him a better opportunity to develop in this position than Spurs, where the team is already set up to best allow him to shine.
If all goes to plan for Spurs, Bale will be able to do this in Champions League side, giving even less incentive for him to leave the club this summer. All the talk so far has been whether Tottenham Hotspur would be able to keep Bale, and how they would manage if he left, but it is also worth considering how much Bale could get by staying at the club for another year. Under Andre Villas-Boas, he has develop rapidly as a forward, and he will likely have the opportunity to continue this next season, after which he can leave as a truly world class player with a claim for a starting place in any team in Europe.