AVB: Bale can reach Ronaldo's level

Andre Villas-Boas believes Gareth Bale can become Tottenham's version of Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

The manager's delighted with his performance...

Bale is enjoying his best season of a short, yet dazzling career. The 23-year-old was a gangly left-back when he joined Spurs in 2007, but he has since developed his game, and his physique, to become one of the most devastating wingers in European football.

Now Bale's career appears to be heading in a different direction. Villas-Boas has recently deployed the Welshman in a more central role, either as a number 10 in the hole or as an out-and-out striker.

One of Bale's idols, Ronaldo, spent the early stages of his career on the flank at Manchester United but now operates as a deadly centre-forward for Real Madrid, and Villas-Boas thinks all the signs are pointing towards the idea that Tottenham's star man could end up doing the same.

"You can see similarities in each of the players," the Tottenham manager said.

"Both of them are extremely technical players, and extremely powerful and pacy.

"It's funny to see how both players compare. They grew up as strikers, but became wingers. Gareth was a left-back and moved to winger and now going to a more advanced role. Ronaldo is also able to play that role up front.

"Ronaldo is now 28, and has achieved so much in his career, he is an example to Gareth as to what he can achieve."

Bale first gained notoriety by burning down the flanks and whipping flat balls into the near post, yet he rarely hugs the touchline nowadays.

That has led to some frustration among the Spurs supporters, who like to regularly remind their manager that they think former Southampton man should "play on the left".

But Bale has excelled down the middle in Tottenham's last two games, scoring decisive goals against West Brom and Norwich, so Villas-Boas appears set on playing his star man up front for the time being.

"We played Gareth up front for the second half against Norwich. We did it again against West Brom and it worked fine," he said.

"We played him in pre-season up front on his own too. Playing him up with somebody else can help his game too in terms of the space that the other can create and the link-up play.

"Gareth is such a phenomenal player that he is able to do that kind of role. He has been scoring a crazy amount of goals coming in from the right wing or through the middle, rather than from the left or assisting from the left. So it means a player can explore his full potential through the middle.

"The most important thing is to get the players feeling well about what they do for the team. And I think Gareth feels well in that position. If he's able to fulfil his full potential it's something we have to consider for the future.

"We know that he has grown out on the left. On the left he becomes a different type of player.

"I'm not sure if it limits his full potential."

Bale may be joined up front against Newcastle on Saturday by Emmanuel Adebayor. Adebayor has been on Togo duty at the African Nations Cup for almost a month but, despite a striker shortage at White Hart Lane, Tottenham say they are happy for the 28-year-old to return to training on Friday afternoon - less than 24 hours before the game against the Magpies.

Villas-Boas was reluctant to comment on Adebayor's whereabouts on Thursday - he would only say that the striker was "in Africa" to "take care" of some "issues".

Given that Jermain Defoe is out for up to three weeks with an ankle injury, the Spurs boss is hopeful that the Togolese will be passed fit.

"It's not a big ask for him to play on Saturday," the 35-year-old said.

"He is in good form and you have to allow the player to rest and recover.

"If he is ready physically we will select him.

"It's always difficult with the trips from extreme heat to cold.

"He will not be 100 per cent, but he's still a player that can make a difference."

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