Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid renaissance proves he has the character to be a future captain of Wales, according to his former international colleague Simon Davies.
Bale was seemingly inching towards the exit door at the Bernabeu before scoring twice in Real’s Champions League final victory against Liverpool in May.
Instead, manager Zinedine Zidane and team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo left Madrid after that triumph and Bale has since played a pivotal part under new boss Julen Lopetegui, scoring in Real’s opening two LaLiga wins.
“It’s funny how it’s all worked out for Gareth,” says Davies.
“The middle of last season he was struggling with injury and Ronaldo was always the main man. Then, he scores those goals in the Champions League final, Ronaldo leaves, and now he’s the main man.
“So he’s probably got what he’s always wanted there and he’s embracing it. As long as he stays fit he’ll go on and have a great season.
“He’s a proper world star. When you’ve got someone like him – just by being on the pitch – the other team know they’ve got a game.
“He’s always going to take the game to the opposition and attack them. He’s massive for us and hopefully he will have a great season for Madrid and Wales.”
Former Fulham and Tottenham midfielder Davies was in the Wales team the day Bale became his country’s youngest-ever player at the age of 16 years and 315 days in May 2006.
He witnessed Bale’s journey from teenage prospect to world superstar and believes Wales’ record goalscorer will go on to captain his country when veteran defender Ashley Williams leaves the international scene.
“Gareth is definitely a leader,” Davies said at a McDonald’s community day. “You can just see he loves playing for Wales, and never misses a game if he’s not injured.
“When Ash decides to call it a day I can’t see anyone taking over other than Gareth.”
For now, however, Davies still believes Williams still has an important role for Wales, despite recently falling out of favour at Everton and an unconvincing start to his loan spell at Stoke City.
“I think he’s definitely still got a role. He had that injury in the Mexico game, but he has that experience, he’s a reader of the game and if you have the right people around him then he’s a big plus.
“People will need to learn from him, when these players come through there needs to be players who can help.
“There’s not many more people with more experience than him. He’s definitely got a couple of years left at least. It does get tricky when you get older because you’re not too sure when to step away.”
Wales boss Ryan Giggs named his squad for the inaugural UEFA Nations League qualifiers against the Republic of Ireland and Denmark on Wednesday.
The Ireland game on September 6 will be Giggs’ first at home after three friendlies in China and the United States since his January appointment.
“Ryan’s got a tough job,” Davies said of his former Wales team-mate.
“They hit the heights at the Euros (reaching the semi-finals in 2016) and it’s a bit of a transition period. He’s got to manage it and the country have to be aware of that.
“There’s more good youngsters coming through and Ryan’s got to bring them in and build again. But he always thought about the game a lot when he was playing and he’s definitely got the experience to do it.”
– Simon Davies was speaking at the McDonald’s & FAW Community Football Day in Baglan. These football days are taking place across the UK this summer, giving thousands of children the chance to enjoy the beautiful game. www.mcdonalds.co.uk/communityfootballdays.