Harry Redknapp has revealed how his approach to Gareth Bale in training helped ‘toughen him up’ into the player he is today.
The Real Madrid man developed into a notable attacking winger during his work with Redknapp at Tottenham, but for the manager, it was not all plain sailing.
Denying that he ever considered shipping the player out when form and fitness were a concern a few years back, the 66-year-old mused on the work he did with Bale.
“It’s true we had some work to do with him but he was one of the players I was most looking forward to working with when I went to Tottenham as manager,” Redknapp has written in his new autobiography, serialised in The Daily Mail this week.
“I really fancied my chances at getting the best out of him — he struck me as an exceptional talent: strong, quick, with a superb shot.
“We had to tease that combative streak out of him because, at that time, he was regarded as a left back and was up against Benoit Assou-Ekotto, one of the best in the Premier League. Gareth seemed too soft to be a defender so we decided to try him further forward.
“He drove me mad in training. Technically, he was outstanding but he always seemed to be playing with his hair. It was never right.
“He’d be flicking the fringe or wiping it out of his eyes and I would be going quietly mad, just watching. ‘Gareth, leave your barnet alone! Gareth! Stop touching your hair!’
“He was always getting a little knock in training, too. He’d go down then limp off and I always thought the physios made too much fuss of him.
“It was the same pattern every morning – Gareth would tumble and stay there, and they’d all go running over. In the end I told them just to leave him alone.
“‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘he’ll be fine in two minutes. If it is anything urgent we’ll soon know’. That’s what they did and, as predicted, Gareth got up, got on with it and got better and better.
“With Gareth, it was all about building up his confidence. We shifted him to wide left and moved Luka Modric inside so they would link up. And we were beginning to hurt teams.
“I predicted he would be our Cristiano Ronaldo. And that’s just what he was. The bottom line is that Gareth can play anywhere. I think Carlo Ancelotti, his Coach at Real Madrid, will view him the same way as me — a free spirit, not tied to any one position.”
Redknapp has also commented on his belief that Gareth Bale’s success at Real Madrid will depend on the type of relationship he manages with Cristiano Ronaldo.