Gareth Bale saved the graces of Tottenham Hotspur with a fantastic double against Lyon in the Europa League last week and the standard and style of his goals would have gone a long way toward impressing a former Lyon midfielder Juninho Pernambucano.
Bale spoke about the practice he has recently been doing in order to perfect his free-kick taking abilities to the point where he has scored three in two games for the club:
"I've been practising for a while now, all sorts of distances. It was just nice to see them go in. It's one of them things I think if you keep practicing; it does come off in a match. I knew it was the last kick of the game but I had to get it up and over the wall and thankfully I saw it go in. I've just got to keep my head down, keep working hard, keep trying to keep my form."
But his free-kick proficiency is nothing new. Despite not recently being heralded for his free-kick ability when he first came through the ranks at Southampton he was well known for his ability from a dead-ball. He scored a stunning free-kick against Derby County on the opening day of the 2006-07 season.
He scored four free kicks that season as a 17-year-old left-back and much has changed since then; including his free-kick technique.
Originally he adopted the ‘Beckham technique’. Arching his back and sliding his standing foot slightly before putting countless amounts of curve and spin on the ball at enough pace to beat the opposing keeper.
You can see the comparison from Bale’s first every goal against Derby and Beckham’s against Colombia in 1998….
Now he has adopted more of the Ronaldo technique; with less of the side-on run then the Beckham style and more of a direct approach before punching the ball rather than curling it. Old habits die hard however and he still performs the standing foot slide which perhaps gives the style its very own amount of resolutions. You can compare below….
So has Bale created a free-kick hybrid of Ronaldo and Beckham’s styles? If so then there will be plenty more where that came from.
What do you make of the Bale free-kick evolution?
image: © andybrannan