• Premier League

Cole: Bale not at Ronaldo level yet

ESPN staff
February 27, 2013

Tottenham winger Gareth Bale has been described as one of the "best players in the Premier League's history."

Bale has been in outstanding form this season, leading the club into third position in the table - thanks to an 11-game unbeaten stretch - and attracting the interest of major clubs across Europe.

And Bale's growing reputation as a genuine match-winner was further increased as his twin strikes - the second a last-gasp 25-yard rocket - helped defeat West Ham United 3-2 on Monday.

And despite being on the end of another inspired Bale performance, West Ham midfielder Joe Cole said there was nothing you could do but stand in awe of the 23-year-old.

"You can't help the goal from Bale - it's world class and he is in that kind of form at the moment," Cole told TalkSPORT. "He could be up there with the best players in the Premier League's history.

"He has still got some work to do, but he has certainly got the potential to be up there with the (Cristiano) Ronaldos and the (Thierry) Henrys that this country has seen. He is great to watch, but he's a nightmare to play against unfortunately."

Bale's recent form has set up an intriguing sub-plot to Sunday's North London derby against Arsenal, with the Wales international facing another form striker he knows all too well - former Southampton team-mate Theo Walcott.

Both players are proving a problem for opposing defences this season, with Bale's wonder strike against West Ham his 15th goal, while Walcott has notched 18 goals for Arsenal.

But the man who controlled both players' early careers - former Saints manager George Burley - believes Bale has proven to be the better player.

"I always thought Gareth was the better prospect," Burley told The Mirror. "Theo had different attributes. Gareth was more the package in terms of that quality on the ball.

"Theo left Southampton when he was 16. That was in the very early stages of his career and he didn't have that many games under his belt, while Gareth had two seasons.

"I think that has shown as Gareth has developed into a better player. I think in those early years, any player is building up.

"If you can get those two seasons under your belt at least, then when you move to a big club, you have certainly got a much better chance.

"I look back at Richard Wright and Darren Ambrose who maybe left Ipswich a bit early. It is like any other job - you have to serve your apprenticeship.

"There are not many players like Wayne Rooney who are Premier League regulars at the age of 16 or 17.

"If you can get that good upbringing in terms of regular games in the Championship and league football, it puts you in great stead when you move into the Premier League."

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