Welsh football weekly: Barcelona's clinical dissection of AC Milan at the Camp Nou on Tuesday, inspired as always by Lionel Messi, saw them claw back a two-goal first-leg deficit and progress to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Wriggling between defenders, sniping balls through impossible spaces and pressing Milan right back to their goal line — Messi, Iniesta, Villa and co showed the kind of form that deserted them during two recent defeats at the hands of Real Madrid in as many weeks.
Those bruising losses have left many Catalans clamouring for major additions in the summer. And last week Barca stopper Gerard Pique told the BBC that one man was top of the players’ list to join the squad — Gareth Bale.
At the time of writing, the Spurs winger has scored an astonishing 11 goals in his last 10 games for both club and country, taking his season total up to 25.
Aside from the numbers, what has caught the eye is Bale’s ability to deliver under pressure, to find space when he’s seemingly encircled by defenders and to strike the ball with both unstoppable force and a deceiving swerve.
Surely there’s no better place for the Welsh winger to take his talent to the next level than at the crucible of football that is Barcelona’s Camp Nou?
Some argue that Bale’s talents and Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” style are not an easy fit. Bale’s ability to gallop upfield at lightning speeds while retaining the ball, they argue, is of no use when the opposition have all 11 players camped inside their own penalty area.
It must be said that on the evidence of Tuesday’s tie between Barca and AC Milan, in which the Catalans were defending just outside Milan’s penalty area for long periods, this theory must be given some consideration.
And ex-Wales striker-turned-manager Mark Hughes drew on his own experience of a relatively unsuccessful season spent at Barca in the 1986-87 season when, this time last year, he counselled his compatriot not to take on such a monumental challenge too soon.
But while Pique admits “he fits a bit better (at) Real Madrid,” he is quick to add that “the best players can fit in any team, no matter the style.”
Week in, week out, Bale demonstrates his intelligence, athleticism and technique is a cut above that of other Premier League stars and that’s why Barca are expected to launch a £50 million bid to bring him to the Camp Nou this summer.
FC Barcelona are also, as their motto goes, more than a club and the cultural bonds forged between Wales and Catalonia, two nations which are now happily emerging from the shadow of larger states, may also help this genuine “Kayardiff kid” settle in quicker than expected.
Not to mention that he can expect to be lavished in off-pitch incentives in sunny and stylish Barcelona.
Last week Bale revealed he rates Barcelona, Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich as Europe’s top three destinations. That marked the beginning of this year’s biggest transfer chase, but Bale should be warned — Barca rarely ask twice.
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