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Premier League

Gareth Bale's growing superstar status rolls Tottenham Hotspur towards watershed

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Newcastle United 1

Gareth Bale is insulated by his normality. He has retained childhood friendships, and is more comfortable playing virtual football on his Xbox than dealing with the disconcerting realities of life as a global superstar.

He will need that perspective in the months to come. The handbrake is off, and the bandwagon, destination Madrid, is gathering momentum. The direction of his career will define both him and Tottenham Hotspur, the club which has a £50m asset after Saturday's 2-1 win against Newcastle.

If Spurs defy market economics and keep him, Bale will evoke comparisons with one-club legends. If Daniel Levy, Tottenham's pragmatic chairman, succumbs to his lust for a deal, they will be forever damned as a selling club.

Bale's reserved nature makes him unsuited to life in exile, but the comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo will keep on coming. His is the sort of saga which will go beyond the summer.

After Bale's double helped Tottenham beat Newcastle to stay fourth in the table, the Spurs manager Andre Villas Boas said: "You don't have to express yourself with words to become a leader, you can do so through actions and performances. Gareth is so driven by the team's objective he leads by example.

"He is on a par with the best players in the world. His hunger has increased. His goals are helping the team. He is having a great individual season. Ronaldo plays on the left side, coming in on to his right foot. We have tried Gareth on the right a couple of times. He is so effective through the middle.

"He is such a good player he is able to play in different roles. How can we keep him? If we improve as the season goes on, as he gets more enjoyment because things go well individually and collectively, he will be able to feel better about himself.

"He is an inspiration to anybody. With him around, other players are able to promote their own potential."

Alan Pardew, relieved that Newcastle's goalscorer Yoan Gouffran had not broken his leg, as first feared, said Bale had dominated his preparations.

"We did a lot of work, setting up to try and stop him, but there are still going to be those moments in a game when he takes over," he said. "His technique, the way he hits that ball, is the problem. He is a great example of a player who keeps working hard, and gets his opportunity."