Ian Rush believes Gareth Bale will join the celebrated company of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo by shining for Wales at Euro 2016.
Barcelona forward Messi and Bale’s Real Madrid team-mate Ronaldo have won the last eight FIFA Ballon d’Or awards between them, but Rush feels his fellow Welshman is fast closing the gap on the pair.
Bale is currently preparing for Real Madrid’s Champions League final with Atletico Madrid in Milan on Saturday night on the back of a successful third season in Spain.
He has scored 19 goals in 23 Primera Division games, has a dozen assists to his name, and has began to rival Ronaldo’s importance to Real in recent months.
The 26-year-old, who scored the decisive goal in the 4-1 final victory over Atletico two years ago, would become the youngest British player to win the Champions League twice should Real triumph at the San Siro.
“He’s scoring goals for fun and will feel he can score from anywhere,” former Wales striker Rush said.
“Becoming the best doesn’t happen overnight, but to be up with the likes of Messi and Ronaldo is having a good Euros or a good World Cup.
“You can do it for your club, but if you do it for your country it’s even better. I’m sure he can do that.”
Bale has regularly been linked with a return to English football – and most prominently Manchester United – since leaving Tottenham in 2013 for a world record fee of £85.3million.
But Rush feels there is no need for Bale to return with him being on top of his game and Real aiming to win an 11th European Cup.
“People talk about him coming back to the Premier League, but he’s enjoying himself and playing for possibly the best team in Europe,” said Rush.
“He’s in the Champions League final again and playing for Real Madrid, so why would you want to come back?
“He’s getting a lot of experience, and playing in the Euros he will be even more experienced when he goes back to Real Madrid.”
Rush expects Wales to cause a few upsets at Euro 2016, even though it is the country’s first appearance at a major tournament for 58 years.
Wales will line up against England, Slovakia and Russia in Group B and Rush, his country’s all-time record goalscorer, feels Chris Coleman’s side are perfectly set up for tournament football.
“Not many teams are going to score a lot against us,” said Rush.
“That’s important because we’ve got two players in Bale and Aaron Ramsey who can win us a game anywhere.
“Once you’ve got that teams will be worried about you. Slovakia, England and Russia will be saying ‘how do we break Wales down?’
“That will be the key to how we do, but the great thing for us is that Bale is coming into the Euros full of confidence.”