Any pub debate to determine the greatest player in the modern era usually involves only Messi or Ronaldo. Yet according to two times Champions League winner Ivan Campo there might shortly be a third megastar to consider.
“Gareth Bale can become the best player in the world. He definitely has the potential and he has developed massively since joining Real Madrid.”
Speaking exclusively to 888sport.com ahead of this weekend’s all-Madrid Champions League final Campo also insists the Welshman can go a long way to securing his name in Bernabeu legend by repeating his feat from 2014 and once again scoring the winning goal against Real’s neighbours and arch-rivals Atletico.
“He can certainly decide the final again with his talent and skill and because he likes to drift into the middle like Ronaldo.”
Campo himself played in several local skirmishes during his five years with the Spanish giants but this Saturday evening promises to be the biggest of them all, a full bodied rioja of a clash with the most prestigious club honour up for grabs.
“This European final will be the perfect derby. Atletico have Simeone at the helm who is like having an extra man in your team. He is the master of motivation. Whereas Real Madrid’s camp is very positive with the counter-attacking style brought about by the arrival of Zidane. I don’t think they’re the favourites; it’s all about who holds their nerve.”
Remaining calm in the chaotic confines of the San Siro this Saturday evening will certainly be key but for los blancos having Ronaldo in your starting eleven considerably helps too.
The teak-tanned genius has blasted home a mind-boggling 51 goals in 2015/16 and will be razor-keen to add to that tally against an infamously stubborn Atletico rearguard. Campo however believes the Portuguese sorcerer could soon be seeking pastures new, or at least returning to pastures old in a transfer that would surely smash all records for fee and headlines.
“Anything can happen in football if the money is right so Ronaldo could well go back to Manchester United. Money talks!”
With Jose Mourinho expected to be installed at Old Trafford this week that would mean a sensational reunion for the Special One with the most prized talent on the planet not to mention a pair of egos that would dominate English football for seasons to come. Yet the potential for fortunes to be exchanged between Manchester and Madrid does not end there with speculation arising anew on David De Gea’s post-Euros future.
“Of course there is going to be speculation after last summer, but we will have to wait and see if this is the year that he finally makes the switch. In Spain we have had great goalkeepers like Iker Casillas and now we have De Gea. He can be the best keeper in the world if he’s not already.”
United’s number one and regular saviour can cement that claim should he enjoy a successful summer in France playing behind a team who have redefined football as we know it while winning three major trophies in the process. For the former international defender however there is evidently a mix of optimism and concern for his national side that have recently slipped below those exceptional standards.
“We will have to leave Del Bosque alone to prepare the team over the weeks prior to the tournament but we have a magnificent squad with high expectations. At the Euros we have to show why Spain has won what it has won.”
It would take a brave man to bet against that.
For nearly two decades the distinctive shaggy curls of Campo could be seen nonchalantly mopping up trouble in a distinguished career that eventually took him from La Liga to the Premier League in a move that raised many eyebrows at the time. After excelling under Guus Hiddink and Del Bosque and being an integral figure among the glittering galacticos the then 28 year old found himself at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium and being barked at by Big Sam Allardyce. Was it a culture shock and how did the present Sunderland boss compare to the illustrious coaches that came before him?
“Sam taught me everything I know when I made the move from Spain to England, and he taught me how to adjust to life in the Premier League. Sam is a great coach and I have great memories of him. His man-management was the reason that he was able to attract the top talent such as Fernando Hierro to Bolton.”
Modesty forbids him from including his own name in that last statement but anyone who witnessed his elegant and intelligent stewardship of the Wanderers midfield back then knows full well that Campo was a class act; a galactico who came to greater Manchester with a brace of Champions League medals and charmed us like few others have before.