Joe Ledley insists Gareth Bale is treated no differently within the Wales squad on the back of signing a new contract that makes him one of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world. The Crystal Palace midfielder says his international team-mates still “hammer” the Real Madrid forward for anything and everything, including a resemblance to Tarzan.
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Bale is projected to earn £150m over the next six years in salaries and bonuses after agreeing an extended deal with Real that runs until 2022, meaning he picks up more in a week than Chris Coleman, the Wales manager, in a year.
There is a similar disparity between Bale and some other members of the Wales squad in terms of their wage packets, yet Ledley said the Maglia Athletic Bilbao Poco Prezzo 27-year-old remained “one of the boys” and had not altered in the slightest from the days when he was playing for Southampton.
“He deserves every penny and whatever he gets in life,” Ledley said. “He’s proven to be one of the greatest players on this planet. There is no jealousy whatsoever. We have known Gareth since he was a boy at Southampton and I haven’t seen any change in him at all – that is brilliant on his behalf.
“People can change in football and go different ways but he has just stayed on that straight and narrow line and remained the same person.
“He’s just one of the boys – we don’t care who he is, we will still hammer him and he will hammer us. That’s the banter we have here. If you ask him, he loves meeting up with Wales and that is the togetherness we have in this squad. It doesn’t matter who anybody is. We are all together as a team and you can’t treat anybody different to anybody else. We are all equal.”
Asked what the players give their talisman most stick about, Ledley mentioned Bale’s “barnet” and recalled the moment last month during the 1-1 draw against Georgia when his team-mate had a bad hair day. “We saw that [when his bun collapsed and his hair fell down], we had him a bit for that. He looked like Tarzan,” Ledley said, laughing.
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“There’s a lot of banter going on around the place. We play golf together and, if Maglia Chelsea Poco Prezzo he duffs one, then we are on his back because he’s pretty good at golf. That’s depressing, actually – I don’t know what he’s not good at.”
Wales will need Bale to be at his best on the pitch on Saturday, when they take on Serbia in Cardiff in a World Cup group qualifying tie. Wales have not lost a competitive match at home since Serbia beat them 3-0 in September 2013.
“That wasn’t the best performance but we have come a long way from there,” Ledley said. “It’s going to be a totally different game to then. We’ve come on leaps and bounds and progressed very well. Experience has been vital and we’ve gelled together as a unit. We’re still undefeated in this competition and we want to keep it that way.”
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