The legendary Dean Saunders, who was assistant to the Welsh national team with John Toshack, had the opportunity to guide a young and shy Gareth Bale. Back then Saunders liked to take a step back and enjoy the technical quality, commitment and speed of execution of the promising Welsh star. Since then his role in the team has grown, culminating in the Euro 2016 run.
Bale and the leek
It's clear to see with our eyes, but the statistics back it up. Since that summer, Wales have won more than half of their matches in which the Real Madrid player is involved. In the last 12 occasions where he was not available, the team only won once. He has played a part in 85% of the team's goals and, beyond just the numbers, has shown a clear committed to the cause. He is more Welsh than a leek. And before you laugh at that comment, note that it is the national emblem of the country.
Bale has become his nation's leader not only through his quality, but also his attitude, and feels very comfortable with the freedom to play in areas where he believes he can do more damage to the opposition. He has learned to link up with others better since arriving in Madrid, to be more patient, not always looking for speed and power to be the solution. But he does what he wants. Being the best player in the history of Wales, it makes it easier to convince everyone else. And this is the reason why, when he is back with his national team, he looks happy and relaxed. In Madrid he has not yet found that level of happiness, but now has the opportunity to show off his talent without the binds that restrain him.