Gareth Bale back to his best after Real Madrid ordeal, says Chris Mepham
By Adam Goodwin
Last Updated: 02/09/19 11:38pm
Wales defender Chris Mepham says Gareth Bale is back to his best on the pitch now that his off-pitch woes have ended.
Bale, who looked to be on his way out of Real Madrid in the summer before his move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning fell through, has now found his way back into Zinedine Zidane's plans at the Bernabeu.
Mepham believes that, now Bale's future seems to be resolved, he can start putting in the performances everyone knows he can for Wales after a disappointing year for the national team.
"It's good to see Gaz back out on the pitch performing," Mepham said.
"He had a lot of speculation over the summer and it's good he has that focus back. It was difficult when he wasn't getting the game-time at Madrid.
"He probably came away with Wales and that was his moment to shine and, unfortunately, he didn't contribute with the goals everyone around him needs.
"When we lost the two games in Croatia and Hungary I saw him in the dressing room afterwards. He was devastated, as we all were, but it just shows how much it means to him."
Now, there seems to be a fresh optimism around the Welsh national team, with some exciting young players starting to get the opportunity under Ryan Giggs.
Daniel James' stock has skyrocketed since his move to Manchester United, scoring three goals in his four Premier League games for the Red Devils.
And David Brooks and Harry Wilson are both now team-mates with Mepham at club level with Bournemouth, and are increasingly becoming key components to Eddie Howe's side.
Mepham, who has started three games for the Cherries himself this season, believes this will only help alleviate the pressure put on Bale to carry the national side.
He said: "It's been difficult for Gareth having that pressure on you every game, to be the person to get the goals.
"That's why it's good to see other lads chipping in - Wilson, Brooks, when he was in the squad, and Daniel James.
"Hopefully that takes the pressure off Gareth and we have got good attacking options on Friday [against Azerbaijan]."
And while these players could take the pressure of Bale, they could potentially be taking set-pieces off him too.
Harry Wilson is now becoming renowned for his free-kicks, bagging one against Manchester City earlier this season.
But Mepham backs the Real Madrid man and Champions League-winner to retain the responsibility.
Mepham said: "It's a conversation I don't want to be involved in!
"Both of them can create that moment of magic. Harry scored last week against Manchester City and he has done it many times, but then so has Gaz.
"If I am betting man I would have money on Gaz bullying the younger lad out of it!"