Can Gareth Bale be better than Ryan Giggs?

Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale has emerged over the past few seasons as one of the Premier League’s most gifted and promising players. The comparisons with Ryan Giggs are a compliment to both players.

The Welshman has been in sensational form this season as he goes from strength to strength. He is undoubtedly Spurs’ best player and is, in many ways comparable to a young Ryan Giggs.

Although Bale began his career as a left-back, breaking through into the Spurs first-team under former manager Harry Redknapp, it soon became apparent that his quality and technique were ideally suited to an attacking role.

He was promptly converted into a left-sided winger by Redknapp and has developed his trade and skillset to become Tottenham’s top goalscorer by a distance with a tally of 21 goals in all competitions.

At 23 years of age he is very nearly world-class – comparisons made between him and Cristiano Ronaldo are premature but not all that far off. His control, pace, technique and finishing are nothing short of exquisite and his free-kick delivery is straight out of the Ronaldo handbook.

Back in 1996, Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs was 23 years of age and had already cemented his place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team. He broke through as an 18-year-old back in 1990/91.

Now 39 years old, Giggs has enjoyed more than two decades of professional football at the highest level at the biggest club in the world. Yet his highest total for any season thus far has been 17 goals in 58 appearances for the Red Devils back in 1994/94.

I’m not suggesting that goals are what wingers should be judged on – assists should surely be taken into account. Giggs has provided 127 assists for United in total – beating second place Frank Lampard’s 89 for Chelsea by miles.

This is what Gareth Bale should aim for – not assist specifically, but longevity. Bale has been exceptional for the last two to three seasons at White Hart Lane but it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his current form for the next fifteen to twenty years.

Synonymously, Giggs is widely regarded as one of the best of his generation worldwide – the reception he received last month when he came on the pitch at the Santiago Bernabeu demonstrates just how well respected he is in football.

He is so highly esteemed not only due to his years and years of top level football but also for how decorated he is. Giggs has achieved with United 12 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 2 Champions League titles, and one UEFA Super Cup winners medal, along with countless individual awards.

Spurs fans won’t thank me for pointing out that whilst Bale may be just as gifted, perhaps even more so than his elder compatriot, he has a much slimmer chance of accumulating medals in such abundance with Tottenham.

On the pitch he may very well be as good (right now) but if he wants to be as good on paper he may need to seek pastures new.

Ryan Giggs’ career is an apt demonstration, along wit his former teammate David Beckham, that remaining fit is the real test for any world-class footballer.

Conversely, Michael Owen’s announcement that he will retire at the end of this season, aged just 32, shows what playing too much too soon can do to a young player’s body.

Bale must remain fit – at the rate he’s going, he’s going to need to have a manager with a sensible head on his shoulders or he will burn out in the latter stages of every season. He needs to avoid the perils of playing perpetually without a rest, season in season out.

If he can maintain his fitness and form, rack up a list of honours as long his arm, and keep his mind focused on his football amidst the distraction of media hysteria he may one day, in a decade or so, have his name mentioned in the same breath as Ryan Giggs.

image: © apasciuto

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