The talent scout who spotted soccer sensation Gareth Bale told today how the youngster first caught his eye – aged just EIGHT.
Bale, bought by Real Madrid for £85.3million, was given his first big break by veteran Southampton FC youth scout Rod Ruddick.
He spotted the young superstar as an eight-year-old in 1998 playing for Cardiff Civil Service in a six-a-side tournament in Newport, Wales.
Rod recommended him to Southampton, who signed him aged nine and in 2006 Bale became the second youngest player ever to appear for the Saints.
Bale signed a four-year deal with Tottenham Hotspur for an initial £5 million in 2007 – and on Sunday he became the world’s most expensive player.
Rod, who runs the Premier League’s satellite academy in Bath, Somerset, said he knew straight away Bale had the potential to be a superstar.
He said: “Even at the age of eight Gareth had fantastic ability. When you sign a player at that age it is because they have great potential and he has just kept getting better.
“He always showed great application and determination to succeed. He was very dedicated and his athleticism was a great part of his game.
“You could see his pace and quality on the training pitch but I think his left foot helped him stand out. What we saw then we knew he was going to be something special.”
Rod, of Midsomer Norton, Somerset, says Bale could have suffered from the effects of pressure after signing for Tottenham.
He said: ”Gareth is quite an introverted person and it was a lot of money for a teenager.
“People think it has happened overnight but he has always been a top player.”