Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has hailed the progress made by Gareth Bale over the last 18 months, following his match-winning brace against Stoke City on Saturday.
Bale joined Spurs from Southampton for an estimated £10 million in May 2007 and arrived at White Hart Lane with a reputation as one of the best young left-back's around.
However, he struggled to make an impact until the second half of last season.
With the form of Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back limiting Bale's progress, the Welsh youngster was all set to join Nottingham Forest on loan during last winter's transfer window only to be catapulted back into the Spurs team after an injury to the Cameroonian.
Having never started a Premier League game on the winning team for Spurs until January 2010, the 21-year-old has not looked back, earning rave reviews and man-of-the-match awards to go alongside the praise of his manager.
"Bale has grown up," said Redknapp. "When I first came to Spurs, Bale was still a baby, he always seemed to be limping off the training ground every time he got touched.
"He realised he had to be tougher if he was going to make it in the Premier League and he has done that.
"Have I had to talk to Bale about mental toughness? A bit, yeah. I just said, 'Stop messing about with your barnet'. I said, 'C'mon Gareth, stop messing about with your hair'. He was always at it.
"I can't think of a better left-sided player than Bale. That left foot of his is amazing, he can run all day, he can head it, he's 6ft 2in. He has got everything.
"You couldn't even put a value on him now. Almost any club would want him."
Bale capped off a memorable six months earlier this year by earning the crown of Spurs’ Young Player of the Year last season and a new four-and-half year contract.
By James Martinicomments