Joe Ledley has described Gareth Bale as the best British player of his generation and says he would have had more respect if he had been English.
Real Madrid striker Bale is set to win his 100th Wales cap against Belarus on Saturday after recovering from a hamstring tear that ruled him out for two months.
Bale is in the final year of his contract with Real and his stint with the Spanish giants is set to end next summer.
Joe Ledley, left, and Gareth Bale, right, have been Welsh teammates for over a decade (Joe Giddens / PA)
The 32-year-old Welsh captain joined Real for a world record amount in 2013 and won four Champions Leagues, three FIFA Club World Cups, two La Liga titles and a Copa del Rey while in Spain .
Bale, who has been named twice PFA Player of the Year at Tottenham, has scored decisive goals in two Champions League finals and scored over 100 goals for Real.
“If you look at his CV, what he won and his individual performances, both at Tottenham and Madrid, then he is by far the best British player of his generation,” said the former Welsh midfielder. Ledley at the PA News Agency during a McDonald’s Fun Football shoot.
“Does he have enough credit? Definitely not. I think if he was English he would get a lot more praise.
Bale has won the Champions League four times at Real Madrid (Nick Potts / PA)
“Look what someone like Jack Grealish takes out of the media. But Bale is on a whole different level.
“As a Welshman you don’t get these credits only from English players.”
Bale will become the second Welshman after Chris Gunter to reach the 100 capes mark.
Cardiff City Stadium will honor Wales’ record scorer and a player whose talismanic influence led the Dragons to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, the country’s first appearance in a major tournament in 58 years.
?? Is he getting enough credit? Definitely not. I think if he was an English player he would get a lot more praise ??
– Joe Ledley on Gareth Bale
It will be a very different setting from a friendly at the end of the 2006 season in the Austrian city of Graz when Bale’s story in Wales began.
At the age of 16 years and 315 days, Bale became the youngest Welsh international and gave a glimpse of the future by organizing the winner of Robert Earnshaw against Trinidad and Tobago.
“You could see the talent he had was scary,” said Ledley, who starred in the 2-1 win after making his own Wales debut a few months before.
“He had this amazing whip with his left foot and his passes and crosses were amazing.
Bale leads the celebrations after Wales beat Belgium to reach Euro 2016 semi-finals (Joe Giddens / PA)
“He was so fast too. Sometimes with fast players the final ball drops them, but Gareth’s delivery was the best.
“He just needed confidence at this young age and he was ready for the next step.”
Bale’s career took off at Tottenham and Real as he became one of the most recognizable and highest paid players in world football.
But he has always been the happiest in and around the Welsh camp alongside players he has known from a young age.
Bale, left, enjoys a joke with Chris Gunter, right, during a Wales training session (Joe Giddens / PA)
Ledley was a member of Wales’ ‘golf’, while Bale – nicknamed ‘The Golfer’ by his Real teammates – relaxed from football by reducing his handicap to three or four.
“Gareth loves playing Wales, he’s been like this since the first game in Austria,” Ledley said.
“He’s the first to be in the hotel. He likes the atmosphere. Even though he’s injured, he wants to be there with the players.
“Chris Coleman (Wales coach) didn’t take care of golf the week before the matches.
Chris Coleman, pictured, was happy Bale was playing golf during Wales training camps (Steven Paston / PA)
“This is the way Gareth relaxes. He was the same with golf as he was with football and table tennis. So good to everyone, just relentless.
The peak came in France in 2016, when Wales became the smallest nation to reach the European Championship semi-finals.
After scoring seven goals in qualifying, Bale joined an exclusive group of players scoring in every group game of the tournament.
Asked if Wales would have achieved what they did without Bale, Ledley replied: “I doubt it.
“Other people might say yes, but I don’t think so. When you have a world class player in his prime scoring vital goals, it makes football a whole lot easier. “
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