‘Bale’s best may not be until 2014’

Chris Coleman has played down speculation over Gareth Bale’s back injury, but suggests it may be 2014 before he is at his best for Real Madrid.

The 24-year-old’s physical condition has fallen under scrutiny during the international break as he has had to undergo a mini-preseason to regain fitness, whilst his club have been forced to deny newspaper claims that he has a slipped disc.

When asked this week of the issue and if there were signs of anything whilst working with him, Wales’ manager was clear in his assessment.

“There's been no problem with his back with Wales,” Coleman told reporters this week.

“I think he missed the Olympics with his back and our friendly against Mexico that summer. But he's never complained about his back with us.

“I wouldn't be surprised if it is not until after Christmas until we see Gareth properly again.

“At the last camp here [with the Wales national team], I took a lot of criticism for not playing Bale, but he had had no pre-season training.

“If you don't have a pre-season and you expect to start and finish in a game, you are crackers. It doesn't happen.

“And if you think you are going to pick up where you were the season before, it's not going to happen.

“It takes time and it doesn't matter how good you are. Gareth is a super player and a super athlete, you are not going to switch it on or off.

“It may take Gareth some time before we see what he is capable of, especially with the extra pressure and the new environment which he has got to get used to.”

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