Gary Lineker believes Gareth Bale’s success with Real Madrid makes him one of the finest British footballers in history.
The Real Madrid forward hopes to be passed fit to participate in his team’s bid to become the first ever to retain the Champions League when in Cardiff on Saturday they meet Juventus in the final.
Bale, 27, has contributed much to them winning the competition in two of the past three seasons since his then world-record £85.3million transfer from Tottenham in 2013.
He has continued to improve, as demonstrated when inspiring Wales to the final four of Euro 2016, and Lineker – who also played in Spain as well as alongside Glenn Hoddle and Paul Gascoigne – believes he is among the Isles’ very best.
“I’d put him right up there with the best British players of all time,” said Lineker, 50. “He’s got to be in certainly the top 10.
“I didn’t catch much of George Best and Bobby Charlton but obviously they’d have to be right up there. Kenny Dalglish I would certainly put in there. Bryan Robson but he suffered a bit with injury. Glenn Hoddle if he’d been playing for a different country. Gazza nearly.
“(Bale’s) won a lot of things, helped Wales be more successful than they’ve been in a long time, and he’s playing for one of the giants of world football, so he’s right up there, and still in his prime. I’ve always loved him as a player; he’s a wonderfully-gifted footballer.
“I’m sure he really wants to be part of this game, in his hometown. He’s had his share of injuries this season, which is a shame, but overall at Real Madrid, he’s proven himself as a world-class player.
“This game isn’t going to define him one way or the other, but it could add to (his reputation).”
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Should he make ZInedine Zidane’s starting XI for the fixture between the Spanish and Italian champions, Bale will likely oppose Juve’s Dani Alves, whose compatriot Maicon he so impressively proved himself against for Spurs against Inter Milan.
Alves has been crucial to Juve’s latest Serie A title and run to a second final in three years, and for all of Lineker’s admiration for Bale – recovering from ankle surgery – he does not expect the Brazilian to grant him the same success.
“To do it in games of that importance (like Spurs v Inter in 2010) just shows he’s got what it takes mentally as well,” said the retired striker, BT Sport’s Champions League host.
“That’s always the little bit on top that you need to deal with the big occasion, to have the nerve to stand up and perform on the biggest stage under the most probing of microscopes. He’s done that countless times.
“(He has) pace, technique, two feet, finishing. Scorer of great goals. Can beat people. Good in the air. He’s got all those kind of abilities that the very best have.
“(But Lineker’s former club) Barcelona must massively regret letting (Alves) slip away because they’ve struggled massively in that position. He’s a brilliant footballer. One of the best ever in his position. He’s been great.”
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