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Wenger: Bale not one of world's greats
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has dismissed the suggestion that Tottenham star Gareth Bale has earned the right to be classed among the world's greatest players.
Bale's latest sparkling display in Tottenham's 2-1 Europa League win against Lyon on Thursday night cemented the theory that the Welshman is edging closer to Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo in the pecking order of modern football's elite list, but Wenger insists such lavish hype is not justified.
When asked whether Bale could be hailed as the third best player in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo, his answer was swift and dismissive. "I wouldn't go as far as that," he stressed.
"He has the potential to develop and to get close to the players you compare him to, but Ronaldo and Messi? Messi has won two or three Champions League titles. He has won a few championships. He scored more than 90 goals last year. Let's not go too quick [with Bale]. You are always very quick here, but let's slow down a bit."
Wenger's decision to sign Theo Walcott from Southampton back in 2006 and pass up on the chance to sign fellow Saints graduate Bale now looks like something of an error of judgement, but the Arsenal boss insists he has no regrets over his failure to land the Welshman.
"At some stage, we were looking to take the two (Walcott and Bale) if possible," revealed Wenger. "We got Walcott and I am very happy with that. Look, if I tell you the number of players we did not sign that we should have signed, you will be amazed. It's the same for every club as you sometimes miss out on players."
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas is equally keen to dampen the euphoria developing around his star turn, as speculation mounts over a possible £50 million summer move for his talisman.
"Bale is going through a great individual moment, you have to recognise that," Villas-Boas said. "He is scoring lots of goals for the team and I think this is his best goal scoring season for Tottenham.
"You can see the player is enjoying his football and getting a buzz out of it. Once things like this happen, individual players keep their motivation high and they are able to help the team reach their objectives, but we cannot expect this from him in every game."