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Commentary

Bale deserves every penny of pay rise

Working hard, fighting back and never quitting: Gareth Bale's messages at the Bernabeu on Monday are a design for life - to borrow from the words of some other famous Welshmen.

Bale's mooted new salary is undeniably gargantuan, worth roughly a week what his Wales manager Chris Coleman earns in a year, but Real Madrid will have made sure the numbers work for them.

One of the leading players in the world, albeit a level below Lionel Messi and (still) Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale helps to bring in silverware, notably two Champions League titles in three years, as well as substantial revenue via marketing and merchandising.

Nobody should begrudge Bale making hay, yet the deal has triggered much censure.

Rather than sound off against one individual whose dedication and ability, and smart agent, have made him incredibly wealthy, critics bemoaning such wages should rather assail those overpaid underperformers in the Premier League, those young players who lose their appetite at the first large contract and those older ones simply happy to sit on the bench or in the stands and take the money.

Bale delivers.

Critics bemoaning such wages should rather assail those overpaid underperformers in the Premier League, those young players who lose their appetite at the first large contract and those older ones simply happy to sit on the bench or in the stands and take the money.

This is reward for the moments when he struggled in Spain, when there was huge scrutiny on his relationship with Ronaldo, when he was criticised particularly during the 2014-15 season.

"There are bad moments in football but the important thing is how you react," Bale said. "It's easy to pack up and leave but it takes more character to stay and fight. I've grown up believing if things aren't right, you work hard to make it right."

Football can struggle for true role models, so Bale should be admired.

He does his community and charity work quietly. He's a team player, acknowledging team-mates' efforts.

His attitude towards Wales, always reporting for duty, always giving everything, is exemplary. Bale is a great ambassador for Real and Wales.

The man who moved from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 deserves to be acclaimed as one of Britain's most successful footballing exports alongside Kevin Keegan, John Charles, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Paul Lambert, Steve McManaman and David Beckham, among others.

He is also a reminder that the game is about the glory, to apply the mantra of his last club.

Barring the odd tumble, usually in anticipation of a robust challenge, Bale actually plays the game the right way.

In 1,253 minutes of La Liga (762 minutes), Champions League (221) and World Cup qualifying ties (270) this season, he has been booked only twice: That's one caution roughly every 10 hours.

He's committed only four fouls in La Liga this season.

Close inspection confirms that, to date, this has not been Bale's best season, only seven goals in 15 appearances for club and country, but the variety of the goals continues to reflect his talent: aerial, dribble and dead-ball.

With an ability to time his leap and propel himself high, Bale's threat with headers has become a considerable weapon for Real and Wales.

He has that change of gear, that change of direction to embarrass defenders, but there is minimal showboating or deliberate humiliation.

He is only 27, moving into that golden period when experience combines with enduring athleticism. Ronaldo is 31 but Bale is clearly perceived as Real's future.

The contract is also reward for all that self-discipline, all the long sessions on the training field practising free kicks, especially his beloved knuckleballs.

There is all that sprint training, that gym work, and that adherence to the right nutrition. He looks even more of an athlete than at Tottenham.

The real fear of Bale raising the bar is that lesser players will feel they deserve more. They don't. Bale is worth it.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Bale deserves every penny of pay rise'. Print Edition | Subscribe