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Bale would join British football’s all-time greats with hat-trick of European Cups, says Lineker

Date Posted,May 31, 2017

Gary Lineker says a third Champions League triumph would ­consecrate Gareth Bale ’s place among British football’s all-time greats.

Bale could become only the sixth player to lift the European Cup in his home town if his Real Madrid side beat Juventus in ­Cardiff on ­Saturday night.

The Prince of Wales football admits he may not be fit enough to last 90 minutes after battling to overcome a calf injury sustained against Barcelona in El Clasico ­almost six weeks ago.

But if Bale picks up a third ­winner’s medal in his own bach yard, that would leave Liverpool’s Phil Neal – who won four ­European Cups in 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1984 – as the only British player to have won the ­trophy more often.

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And England legend Lineker, who will be hosting BT Sport’s ­Champions League final coverage this weekend, ­believes the Bale’s place in the pantheon is ­already ­secure.

He said: “I would put ­Gareth Bale up there with the best British players of all time. He’s certainly got to be in the top 10.

“You can only really judge players you’ve seen in your time. I didn’t catch much of George Best and Bobby Charlton, but obviously they would have to be right up there and Kenny Dalglish would certainly be in it. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but Bryan Robson would be a contender, although like Bale he suffered a bit with injury, and Glenn Hoddle – if he had been playing for a different country.

“Gareth has won a lot of things with Real Madrid, he’s helped Wales to be more successful than they have been in a long time – more than ever ­probably – and he’s playing for one of the ­giants of world football, still in his prime.

Spurs predecessor Hoddle would be close to a place in Lineker’s own British top 10

“I bigged him up in his early days at ­Tottenham and got a lot of stick on Twitter for it – you get a lot of stick on Twitter for ­everything – and thankfully he proved me right after a while,” added former Spurs striker Lineker.

“I have always loved watching him play, he’s such a ­wonderfully-gifted ­footballer. Bale has got the lot: pace, technique, two good feet, finishing, scorer of great goals, can beat people, good in the air.

“He has got all the ­attributes that the very best players have.

“I don’t think this final will define him as a player, but it would only add to his standing if he helped Real retain the ­Champions League ­trophy.

Bale has been battling an injury and may only be on the bench for Saturday’s final (Photo: Getty)

“You have to prove, at some point, that you can deliver in games where it really counts. We’d seen him do it at club level many times, but then he had those two ­sensational games for Tottenham against Inter Milan in the ­Champions League.

“All of a sudden, to do it in games of that importance just showed he’s got what it takes mentally as well.

“There is always that little added extra that you need to deal with the big occasion, to have the nerve to stand up and perform on the ­biggest stage under the most ­probing of ­microscopes.”

Real ­superstar Cristiano ­Ronaldo rarely plays second ­fiddle to anybody, but if Bale is on the winning side in ­Cardiff even the great Portuguese may have to settle for being Nigel ­Kennedy instead of ­Yehudi Menuhin.

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After Real broke ­Barcelona’s stranglehold on the La Liga crown, Bale has now won the domestic league and Copa del Rey in Spain, plus Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup since his then-world record £85.1million move to the Santiago Bernabeu from Tottenham.

Lineker added: “Bale has had his share of ­injuries this season, which is a real shame, but overall at Real Madrid he has proved himself as a ­world-class player.

“To come back in a game of this magnitude would be a big ask, but he’ll really want to be part of it in his home town and hopefully he will be involved.”

* UEFA Champions League final, Real Madrid v Juventus, on BT Sport channels and free on YouTube, BT Sport website and app, BT Sport Showcase and in VR on Saturday June 3rd.

Visit btsport.com/final for more on the ways you can watch .

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