LONDON — Still to win any trophies with Tottenham, Gareth Bale collected the top two awards in English football on Sunday to cement his status as one of the sport’s most talented players.
The Wales forward was voted player of the year and the young player of the year by his fellow professionals in English football.
"It’s a massive honour," said Bale, who was also voted player of the year in 2011. "To be voted by your peers is one of the biggest things in the game. It’s great to win it and I am delighted."
The 23-year-old Bale beat off competition from Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Michael Carrick to win the main Professional Footballers’ Association award.
Only two other players have done the PFA double: former Aston Villa striker Andy Gray in 1977 and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007 when he was with Manchester United.
Bale’s ability to bamboozle defences and score from set-pieces has led to inevitable comparisons with Ronaldo, who is now starring for Real Madrid.
"Both are extremely technical, powerful and pacey," Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said. "They grew up as strikers but became wingers. Gareth is now playing a more advanced role. Ronaldo is also able to play that role up front."
Bale’s scintillating displays have produced 24 goals and been crucial to Tottenham sitting fifth in the Premier League to remain in the hunt for the four Champions League places in the closing weeks of the season.
Bale’s career has witnessed a remarkable turnaround since he joined Tottenham at 17 in 2007 for 5 million pounds (then $8 million) and endured a frustrating start.
A series of injuries stymied his progress and he played 24 league games across two years before finally featuring on a winning side.
Harry Redknapp, who was then in charge of Tottenham, pushed Bale forward onto the left wing, allowing him to attack without having to think so much about the defensive aspect of his game.
Bale has kept his searing pace despite developing a more robust physique that allows him to shrug off opponents, while often now playing in a more central attacking position.
"I have been shooting a lot more and I have been coming inside a lot more, too," he said at the awards’ ceremony in London. "I have a few less assists this year, but I am in more scoring positions these days and that has obviously helped my scoring tally."
Bale was also selected in the Premier League team of the year along with Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who is currently serving a 10-game ban for biting an opponent. The voting took place before Suarez sank his teeth into Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last Sunday, and his name was booed when it was read out at the ceremony.
In the team of the year, Manchester United’s David De Gea was picked as goalkeeper, while the defenders are Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) and Leighton Baines (Everton).
Chelsea duo Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, Manchester United’s Michael Carrick are in midfield, while Manchester United striker Robin van Persie also features with Bale and Suarez.
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor wishes Suarez followed the lead of Bale and Van Persie in setting a better example to youngsters.
"Everyone knows Suarez is a great footballer. I just wish at times he could fall into line because footballers are role models and Gareth and Robin van Persie are really good examples for the younger generation," Taylor said.