Liverpool legend tips Gareth Bale for Ballon d'Or

Gareth Bale

Liverpool legend John Toshack has backed Gareth Bale to follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and win the Ballon d'Or.

The Welshman has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last few years and became the most expensive player in history when Los Blancos paid Tottenham Hotspur around £85 million to land him last year.

Bale crowned an exceptional debut year in the Spanish captial with a Copa del Rey and Champions League double - with the 25-year-old netting crucial goals in both finals.

The former Spurs star settled the Copa del Rey final against fierce rivals Barcelona back in April when he burst past Marc Bartra on the halfway line before carrying the ball into the box and calmly finishing with around five minutes left on the clock.

The stunning goal gave Carlo Ancelotti's side a 2-1 win, and Bale then popped up with the crucial second in extra time in the Champions League final against local rivals Atletico Madrid in May, as they wrapped up 'La Decima' with a 4-1 victory over Los Rojiblancos in Portugal.

Bale returns to his Cardiff home this evening when Los Blancos take on Europa League winners Sevilla in the European Super Cup, and Toshack, who has previously managed at Santiago Bernaebu, tipped his compatriot to win the Ballon d'Or at some point.

He told AS: "Well, he's only 25 and he has the capability to win the Ballon d'Or. Moving to Madrid was good for him in that respect, because his exposure will be much greater than anywhere else.

"Then he has to manage the injuries. That is Cristiano and Messi's secret; They have never had serious injuries. But yes, Bale has all the attributes to follow in the footsteps of Messi and Cristiano."

Toshack, who formed a devastating partnership with Kevin Keegan during his time at Liverpool back in the 1970s, also explained how he gave winger Bale his international debut as a teenager, while in charge of the Welsh side.

As inconceivable as it seems after watching the pacy winger destroy defences alongside Ronaldo last term, Bale started his career as a left-back, and Toshack revealed that he saw the player's potential as an attack-minded player in his formative years.

"When he was 17, I selected Gareth Bale for his first international game against Trinidad and Tobago, who were then coached by Leo Beenhakker," he added.

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"That was in 2006. He was still at Southampton. He was playing at left back. But because of his attacking attributes I sometimes played him as a striker, such as against Russia when we wanted to play on the counter.

"He made a great run and provided an assist for us to equalize. Bale's problem at that time was that he was very unlucky with injuries. He was out of the national team for almost two years for one reason or another. That put the brakes on his development, although he's over it now."

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