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REAL MADRID

Bale: "We need to be better to win La Liga"

In a wide-ranging interview about his career so far, Gareth Bale told Sport Magazine about how he deals with pressure, and why Real Madrid need to be "more consistent"

Bale: "We need to be better to win La Liga"
EFE

In an interview with Sport Magazine, Gareth Bale talked openly about his career so far, from playing in the Championship with Southampton, his meteoric rise at Tottenham, winning trophies and learning how to deal with pressure in Madrid, and, of course, playing for his beloved Wales.

The Championship

“The Championship is a very difficult league, a very physical league, so it gave me a great base to build from. The most important thing for me, when I was younger, was to be playing week-in, week-out. You can train with great players – but there’s nothing like playing games, especially when you’re young. That was vital for my development.”

Transition to attacker at Spurs

“I always wanted to be an attacker, I never wanted to be a defender. No offence! I actually made my debut for Tottenham at left midfield at Old Trafford, under Martin Jol. He’d seen that maybe I couldn’t defend so well, but I could attack. Obviously Harry Redknapp saw the same thing. I started playing left-back under him, then he realised there was a lot of space behind me. Ultimately, that’s why I got taken away from left-back – because I never used to fulfil my defensive responsibilities. So he put me in a more attacking role. Since he did that, I’ve never looked back.”

Wales debut

“I was on the bench for my first game – I think it was against the Basque Country – and I was speaking with my parents, hoping so much that I could get on and make my debut. I remember not coming on and how disappointed I was. I was speaking to my dad after, and I was just gutted. Then I was called up again for the following game against Trinidad [& Tobago]. To come on was a lifelong dream come true. I used to watch Wales all the time with my family; go to the stadiums. It was just an amazing experience – and to win the game was a bonus, as well.”

Incredible Euro 2016 run

“It was insane. We knew we were getting a reception, but the size and magnitude of it was just mindblowing. It was for them to thank us for doing so well – and us to thank them for supporting and getting behind us. It was a whole nation uniting. Hopefully now we can build football in Wales, get more players, just grow as a football country.”

Dealing with pressure 

“I feel like I’m used to it at club level. That helps, but I just try not to think of it as a battle between ‘myself’ and ‘performing well’. For me, it was just about working hard. One player can’t win every game. We can each make differences, but it’s about playing as a team – that was the way I approach it.”

Second-season syndrome

“In a way, I’m quite glad that happened because it made me a stronger person, a stronger player. You learn more from when things are not going well than if you were just a winner. I’ve really benefited from it. As a footballer, you want to keep improving. The main thing for me was to push myself more and more, to get better and better. Those are the challenges every year. Even if you have a great season, you have to try and have a better one next year. That’s the challenge I face.”

Real Madrid this season

“We need to be more consistent. We had a very good end of the season last year, but we need to be better at the start and in the middle. Ultimately, the most consistent team wins the league. We came very close last year – not close enough, but we’re going to work harder as a team together [Real finished a single point behind Barcelona]. Hopefully, at the end of the season, we’re lifting that trophy.”

Champions League final in hometown, Cardiff?

“If there is extra motivation, then yes: that does it. But I’m already very motivated to win it again. We can be the first team in history to retain the trophy since it became the Champions League [in 1992], so that will be the aim this year: win it back-to-back. But it would be amazing to do that in my home city.”

Ambitions

“In my career: club-wise, win as many trophies as I can, play as well as I can. International-wise: we want to qualify for a World Cup. It would be incredible for us as a nation. We’ve said all along, even though we qualified for the Euros, we want to be at major tournaments on a consistent basis. So, yeah, play in a World Cup, qualify for major tournaments – and, you never know, sneak a trophy there! But just to keep doing as well as I can, winning as many trophies as I can.”