Former Tottenham Hotspur star Gareth Bale has been singing the praises of Southampton’s youth academy.
The Wales international winger was on the books of the Saints from 1999 until 2007, rising through the club’s ranks and eventually going on to establish himself in the first team.
Bale joined Spurs in 2007 and became one of the best players in the Premier League in the subsequent years, before earning a world-record £85.3 million move to European giants Real Madrid in the summer of 2013.
Now widely considered as one of the best players in the world, 25-year-old Bale has stated that he would have never come the footballer he is now without learning the basics at Southampton.
‘When I think back to playing at Southampton it is all good times, happy times’, Bale told Southampton’s official website. ‘Since when I was nine, they looked after me all the way.
'They really do take care of every step in your career and for me it was the best education in football being at Southampton. Without being there, I really don’t think I would be where I am today’
Southampton have a long-standing reputation of producing brilliant young footballers, although they have not always achieved success in the Premier League.
However, things are looking different at the moment. Under manager Ronald Koeman, the Saints are flying high in the English top flight and are currently second in the league table, four points behind leaders Chelsea.