Gareth Bale 'the best British player around' says Gary Lineker

Former England striker stops short of comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Former England captain Gary Lineker believes Tottenham's Gareth Bale is the best British player around at the moment - but should not yet be compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 23-year-old has been in sparkling form for Spurs this season, scoring 15 Barclays Premier League goals including a spectacular winner in Monday's 3-2 win at West Ham.

Bale's stock has risen to such an extent he has been labelled 'world class' in some quarters, but Lineker reckons such comparisons will only serve to heap pressure on the Welshman when he should just be allowed to develop naturally.

"He's massively talented," the 52-year-old said. "He's making such an impact on games on a relatively regular basis and has been doing for quite a while, but the frequency is becoming more. He's becoming more influential in every game.

"The reason I say it's bit unfair to compare him is that they (Messi and Ronaldo) are probably two of the - if not the - best players we've ever seen - certainly the best two of their generation.

"The way football evolves, obviously players get fitter and stronger and quicker, etc, so therefore they're quite likely the best two players we've ever seen.

"So it just puts a little bit of a burden on someone. You know what we're like in this country - we'll build him up, build him up and then if he has a bad spell of three games we'll be saying, 'he's no Ronaldo, he's no Messi' when no-one ever really should have said it in the first place.

"If we look back in three or four years' time and he's performing like he is now... He's performing like Messi and Ronaldo do every week at the moment, but can he sustain that? It's a big ask.

"For me he's certainly the best British player around at the moment, and that's probably where it should stay. We shouldn't start saying he's the best in the world or even close to it at the moment."

While Bale is blossoming under Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas, it appears a rather less settled ship at the Portuguese's former employers, Chelsea.

Rafael Benitez earlier this week hit out at those who appointed him for giving him the title of 'interim' manager, and at the club's fans for their constant jeering.

Lineker, speaking at the launch of Walkers' home-grown range which sees them introduce the use of ingredients sourced from British farms and producers, said: "It's all gone a bit messy.

"He obviously wasn't an ideal fit in the first place and the fans don't seem to want to take to him. He probably knew a bit of that when he joined, and the interim perhaps he would have known about.

"I suppose he's got a point, but I'm not sure it does him any favours to voice it.

"I guess the position looks more and more untenable by the day. But at the same time I can't see there's any point whatsoever in bringing someone else in now, just until the end of the season, because they're obviously going to appoint someone then anyway so I think it's probably best for all concerned if they just get on with it and support the club and support the team."

Lineker, meanwhile, is lending his own support to former Tottenham and England team-mate Paul Gascoigne, who is currently spending time at an alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Arizona.

"I know that when he first went over he had a bit of a reaction to coming off whatever he was on, and he was in intensive care for a while," the former striker said.

"I now know he's back in the clinic, getting the treatment, and beyond that I've got no news. Hopefully no news is good news.

"There's a massive amount of affection for Gazza right around the country, and hopefully he can take encouragement for that and use it as a motivation to get better because it's got to come from him - we all know that. He's got to really want to do this and hopefully find a reason to do it."

Lineker was recently joined by his father, Barry - a former fruit and vegetable market stall owner - for a road trip across the United Kingdom to sample the home-grown produce that is going into Walkers' new flavourings.

"It was good fun, going round various places with my dad," he said. "It was nice to spend a bit of time with him. We both like our sport, so there's plenty to talk about!"

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence