Belfast Telegraph

'Quiet boy' Gareth Bale I knew will be a big hit in Madrid, says Blayney

By Steven Beacom

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Blayney believes "the quiet boy" he knew at Southampton will become a huge hit as the "100 million pound man" at Real Madrid.

The Spanish giants will this week up the ante in their pursuit of Tottenham Hotspur star Gareth Bale and make him the world's costliest player.

The massive transfer fee and personal terms for the Welshman will make it the biggest deal in football history, topping the £100m mark.

Linfield's Blayney admits the figures are "unbelievable" but he is confident that the 24-year-old star can be a success at the Bernabeu.

Blayney, close to a return from injury for Linfield, recalls Bale as a schoolboy training with Southampton.

At the time Blayney's Southampton career was coming to an end.

He would go on to play for several clubs in England including Brighton & Hove Albion, Oldham Athletic and Doncaster Rovers, as well as Bohemians in the League of Ireland, returning to Northern Ireland in 2008 to sign for Ballymena United before switching to Linfield.

"Gareth was a schoolboy coming through the ranks at Southampton when I was there," said 31-year-old Blayney.

"I remember him being a very nice lad. He was a quiet boy and it was clear when he would join us for training that he had a lot of ability.

"At that time he was very highly regarded by the people at Southampton, but with kids you just never how they will develop and if they will go on to become special players. He certainly has.

"Back then Gareth was playing in the youth team and he was a defender.

"He had real pace and he was obviously pushed forward later in his career because he could be more effective further up the pitch.

"The Southampton Academy was fantastic. We used to pick up so many talented young players.

"There was a really good scouting network and the way the coaches treated the kids was fantastic.

"Obviously that helped Gareth develop and in the last few years at Spurs he has become one of the best players in the world.

"I believe he is a genuine world class player who will do really well at Real Madrid if the deal goes through.

"The figures surrounding the transfer fee are unbelievable. It's scary really, but that's Real Madrid and modern day football for you."

Blayney, who is relishing the opportunity to challenge fellow international Johnny Tuffey for the number one jersey at Windsor Park, added: "If I had the chance to speak to Gareth again I would congratulate him and wish him all the best.

"I genuinely hope he will be a big hit in Spain and believe he has the talent to do it."

Meanwhile with Bale keen to leave Tottenham, striker Roberto Soldano has completed his £26m move to White Hart Lane from Valencia.

The fee for the 28-year-old is a club record beating the previous best which was also paid this summer when the London club signed midfielder Paulinho from Corinthians for nearly £17m.

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas has also recruited FC Twente winger Nacer Chadli for £7m ahead of the new season.

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