Gareth Bale could follow in Ryan Giggs’ footsteps and go back to the future – quashing any rumours of retirement.
Former Wales’ chief Mark Hughes believes that Bale, the country’s most famous player, can reinvent himself to prolong his career with the Red Dragons.
Hughes is at a loss to explain why the 31-year-old has not been an automatic choice on the team-sheet at Tottenham.
But he says he cannot believe the growing whispers that the Real Madrid man may call time on his international career after these Euros – and suggested that a role off the frontline could extend his time with the Welsh side still further.
Speaking at a Betfair event, Hughes said: “We’ve all been disappointed with the amount of game-time Gareth’s had at Spurs.
“It’s a strange one. I don’t understand what’s happened.
“Jose Mourinho can be pragmatic. He wants his wide guys to tuck in and do the defensive work. Gareth’s not going to do that beyond a certain extent – maybe not to the extent that Mourinho wanted.
“It’s the only thing I can think of. Yes, he has had injury problems in the past. Sometimes players do need to be in their mind as near to 100 per cent as possible.
“Sometimes players can be 75 per cent and play. Perhaps Gareth needs to be at 95 per cent before he can perform?
“He plays at a pace and with such power that he will be susceptible to muscles pinging.
“But I can’t believe he’s going to pack it in. He’s got another year in Madrid and I can’t believe he will jack it in at that early age.
“I certainly hope not because he is certainly capable of getting to the 2022 World Cup if he wants to.
“And Wales haven’t qualified for one since 1958, so that will be a target for him.
“He can do it if he wants. If you look back at Ryan Giggs and how he developed, Ryan was just a flying machine when he burst on to the scene. No one could keep up with him.
“As he became older he became more intelligent and dropped back, becoming a midfield creator.
“Gareth has the capability of doing that. If he wanted to, he could get away with playing at 80 per cent of what he was and he would still be an asset.”
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Hughes admits that the lack of game-time for the likes of Bale, Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey could undermine Wales’ Euro hopes.
Ben Davies is another who has only just shrugged off an injury to declare his full fitness in time.
But Ramsey is Wales’ key performer, even though his time at Juventus has not gone according to plan.
Hughes added: “With Aaron, it’s a different one. He’s had injuries.
“Maybe he has had to prioritise his club before his country – only in as much as he felt he needed to be around the place and in people’s faces to get the game-time he needed.
“If that meant missing Wales games, so be it. We have all been guilty of that.
“I did that myself as a player when I thought, ‘I need to miss this one because there’s a big club game coming up’.
“He’s a great player and I hope he can have the impact. The lack of game-time could mean that they are fresh.”