Chris Coleman has warned Gareth Bale that he is now a target for tough-tackling opponents – if he wasn’t already earmarked by the majority of them.
Bale started for Wales as they drew 1-1 with Finland at the Cardiff City Stadium, and the Real Madrid star was treated to some tasty challenges from the visitors.
Bale became the world’s most expensive player over the summer and while he may have been a well-known adversary to Premier League sides while at Tottenham, his move to the Spanish capital has alerted the world to the 24-year-old’s incredible ability – something that Coleman believes will bring new challenges to the winger’s game.
“Gareth will have to get used to that,” the Wales boss told reporters after the game when questioned about the roughing up of his star player.
“He is going to get kicked, pushed and bullied but he has got to get used to that.
"He has been propelled onto another level. But he has the character to deal with it. He hasn't got a choice as he is such a good and dangerous player.”
Bale was not the only Liga superstar to be given the special treatment during the international break, with Barcelona forward Neymar taking to Instagram to show-off the marks left on him after several bruising encounters against Honduras while on duty with Brazil.
Coleman insists that Bale can’t let similar experiences hamper his game, suggesting that he has to take the constant fouling as a compliment.
"He knows before he walks onto the pitch that in the 90 minutes there will be someone who wants to leave something on him, but he has got to take that as a compliment as well," he said. "I am sure he does, although it may be a painful compliment.”
In the absence of Bale, Aaron Ramsey has been carrying the torch for Welsh football in the Premier League this season, and although the Arsenal midfielder missed out on Saturday, Coleman also stated that he needs both men fit if his side are to pose a real threat on the international stage.
“We need Bale and Ramsey. If we are to mount a challenge we need them for most, if not all, the games," he continued.
“When I was playing we had Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Ryan Giggs and Neville Southall. We all knew they were world class. If we had them, we had half a chance. And we have got two here now.”
Wales missed out for qualification for next year’s World Cup by a good distance, and a vast improvement will be needed all-round if Bale is to avoid becoming yet another great who never graced a major finals.