Wednesday 17 July 2019

Ian Rush: Gareth Bale would be perfect fit to replace departing Kop icon

Gareth Bale defended his form after missing a string of chances as Real Madrid lost to Juventus on aggregate in the Champions League semi-final (Adam Davy/PA Wire)
Gareth Bale defended his form after missing a string of chances as Real Madrid lost to Juventus on aggregate in the Champions League semi-final (Adam Davy/PA Wire)
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale reacts during the Champions League second leg semifinal soccer match between Real Madrid and Juventus, at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, on Wednesday (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Ian Rush

They rose one by one. They waved their arms wildly and spat their words out angrily. Five minutes later it happened again. The next time the abuse was that little bit louder. And they kept at it.

Down on the pitch, one of the best pros I have ever come across also kept at it. He tried. He ran. He harried. He hustled. He came close to scoring.

He was easily one of Real Madrid's better players but was also their most abused.

It's something I can't get my head around. Gareth Bale is a top player, one of the finest in the world. And he is a team player. He parks his ego for the sake of everyone else.

Yet his face doesn't fit in Madrid. I saw that with my own eyes on Wednesday. His manager likes and rates him but how long will his manager be staying at the Bernabeu?

This is a club where the fans make decisions. They elect their president. Their president selects their manager. If Bale isn't popular among the voters then it doesn't take a genius to figure out what might happen.


He deserves better. He's a nice lad, a quiet type who doesn't chase after the celebrity culture that exists around players.

This will hurt him. Yet because he is such a competitor, he won't walk away. He will want to stay and prove people wrong.

From a Liverpool perspective, I think Brendan Rodgers should pounce now. He should throw in an offer and see if Madrid bite.

Think about what he would get - a world-class player who can play wide left, wide right, behind the main striker or as the main striker.

Look at his record in Madrid. He has scored 39 goals from 77 starts - better than a goal every other game, which is more than acceptable for a wide player.

Plus he will thrive in a positive environment. Liverpool's fans would take to him instantly.

With Steven Gerrard leaving, they need a marquee signing to cheer and salute. Bale would fit the bill. The city would suit him. Brendan's style of play would suit him too. For me it is the perfect fit.

With Gerrard on the way out, we need something special to be on the way in.

I like Steven. He is easily one of the greatest players in the history of the club, and when Brendan said he has done more for the city than politicians, I thought it was the perfect tribute.

We know he could have left 10 years ago. But he stayed true to his people.

And it reminded me of the words Sammy Lee, Phil Thompson and Terry McDermott had for me when I came into the club 25 years ago.

As a young Welshman, I didn't have a clue about the culture of the club or the city.

I quickly learned. When derby week came or when Manchester United visited, they cranked things up in training. They spoke to you intently. "This matters," they'd say. "Not just to us but the supporters."

Players move on. But the baton got passed when they left. It would be my turn to educate newcomers.

Others, Ronnie Whelan, Jan Molby, Bruce Grobbelaar - an Irishman, a Dane and a Zimbabwean - became adopted Scousers. New players would come to the club and they'd hear the same thing we did.

Then it was Robbie Fowler's turn to educate. Steve McManaman's. By the time Gerrard and Jamie Carragher came through, they were able to continue that link back to Tommy Smith's day.

"This is for the supporters," they'd say.

Now Steven has gone. For Liverpool, they need someone to pick up that baton. They need Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge.

They need that attitude which carried the club through tough games. They need that spirit.

Without it, you are nothing. But once you have it - and all the great Liverpool teams did have it - it can bring you so far.

It got us the Double in 1986. It brought us back from Hillsborough in 1989. It got us the 1984 European Cup.

So many matches, so many seasons turned out better because of that Scouse spirit. Never mind that most of the team were born elsewhere. We bought it to what it meant to be a Liverpool footballer.

Steven didn't need to be told. He instantly knew. That's why he will be missed, not just because he is a brilliant player, but because he is a brilliant person.

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