He may be one of the most recognisable figures in world sport, but Gareth Bale insists on-field achievements will always carry more weight than celebrity status.
Bale’s £86million move to Real Madrid from Tottenham put him in the top bracket of sporting superstars. But, as he looks to guide Wales to victory over Belgium in tonight’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Brussels, Bale is happy to eschew the glitz and glamour to ensure he is remembered for his feats on the football field.
“I am a footballer, not a heartthrob,” said Bale, 25. “I want to make the most of the way things are going in my career, so football and doing well for Real Madrid and Wales will always come before anything else. It has to, because I want to be successful for club and country.”
Bale is a talismanic figure for Chris Coleman’s Wales side. He has scored eight goals in his last 12 internationals, including the double which rescued Wales in Andorra.
While question marks were raised about Ryan Giggs’ commitment to the Welsh cause, there are none around Bale, whose pride and joy were clear to see as he celebrated last month’s win over Cyprus.
Wales have Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen back after injury, while Belgium skipper Vincent Kompany has been ruled out with a calf injury.
It marks a chance for the Group B leaders to take a big step towards the finals. “We know we can harm sides with our pace on the counter-attack. We have come through two very difficult home games and need to build on that.”
Wales: (4-4-1-1) Hennessey; Gunter, Williams, Chester, Taylor; Allen, Huws, Ramsey, Ledley; Bale; Robson-Kanu.
Belgium: (4-3-3) Courtois; Vanden Borre, Alderweireld, Lombaerts, Vertonghen; Nainggolan, Witsel, De Bruyne; Chadli, Origi, Hazard.
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Rep)Reuse content