Gareth Bale targets Champions League qualification with Tottenham - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Gareth Bale targets Champions League qualification with Tottenham

Spurs winger puts European qualification first

Gareth Bale would gladly trade in his two PFA awards for a guaranteed top-four finish with Tottenham.

Not for the first time this season, Bale was the star of the show last night, winning the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Player of the Year Award and the Young Player of the Year gong at a star-studded awards ceremony in central London.

The 23-year-old beamed with pride as he collected both awards, and during his acceptance speech re-iterated his desire to return to the biggest stage of all next season - the Champions League.

Tottenham's hopes of qualifying for Europe's biggest club competition took another blow on Saturday when they needed a last-gasp equaliser to snatch a draw at lowly Wigan.

Bale has been pleased with his remarkable season, which has yielded 29 goals for club and country, but qualifying for the Champions League is far more important to the Welshman, who thinks Tottenham have a bright future ahead of them.

"I definitely would do it," Bale said when asked if he would swap his two awards for a guaranteed top-four finish.

"Overall we have been doing fantastic this season.

"We still have quite a young squad when you compare us to a lot of the other teams.

"A lot of us are around a similar age. We have been together now for three or four years.

"We have grown up together and the confidence is there. We are still young, we are improving every season and hopefully we can reach our ambitions, which we know we can achieve."

Bale first announced himself on the world stage two seasons ago with two stunning displays against Inter Milan, but he has since gone on to become an even better footballer.

The former Southampton man has developed in to a deadly forward who is just as comfortable operating down the left or right and in his now-favoured position just behind a central striker.

His performances this season have led to speculation that Real Madrid are set to launch a big-money bid for the player, but Bale himself played down talk of a summer move last night, describing it only as "speculation".

If he continues his current form, Bale will more than double his previous best goal tally for a season of 15 and he thinks there is still plenty of room for improvement in his game.

"I definitely think I can improve," he said.

"There is still a lot for me to do. I have only just moved in to that role in the centre so there is still a lot for me to learn and hopefully I can continue to do that.

"As long as I keep working hard on the pitch and in training hopefully that will come true."

Some Spurs fans were aggrieved last season when former manager Harry Redknapp played Bale anywhere other than on the left wing, but he has impressed in his free role behind the striker this season.

"I'm still learning different parts of the game," he said.

"If you are struggling on the left you can go to the centre, and if you are struggling there you can move to the right so it's obviously great being able to play in a lot of positions and it does make you a better footballer.

"I have enjoyed playing all the positions. My favourite is probably the central role where you play behind the striker. There you can go left, right, short, deep... It's a role I have enjoyed and hopefully can keep improving on."

PA

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