Stuart Pearce, who managed the Great Britain soccer team to a quarterfinal exit at the London Olympics, recently singled out Welsh star Gareth Bale for pulling out Olympic consideration the night before the team was named last year.
Bale, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder, transferred from England’s Tottenham Hotspur to Spain’s Real Madrid for a fee reported to be upwards of $100 million two weeks ago.
Pearce’s comments to Sky Sports were published in several British outlets, including the Guardian:
“I don’t want to speak out of school and speak out of confidences, but we had a situation with Gareth Bale. We were going into the Olympic Games, I’ve spoken to him seven months prior about going to the Games, I’m going to put the squad out on the Friday morning – on Thursday he rings me and says his back’s not so good, he’s going to have to pull out of the squad.
“He plays his first game for Tottenham pre-season the same day as we play our first Olympic game. We’ve got the brightest talent in Britain at the time didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games. And he wasn’t alone, by the way. There [were] a couple of others as well, because of the media hype that football shouldn’t be in the Olympics.
“Now you ask the 23 players who went to the Olympics – you ask [Craig] Bellamy [Ryan] Giggs, ask players of that ilk what they felt about the Olympic experience and they’ll say arguably it could have been the best experience of their life on a football pitch.”
Britain was bounced from the quarterfinals by South Korea in its first appearance in the Olympic soccer tournament since 1960.
Perhaps Bale could have helped Team GB. He scored 21 Premier League goals for Spurs last season and won the Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said last year that Bale merely made a faster-than-expected recovery to be able to play for Tottenham while the Olympics were going on.