Gareth Bale will relish the responsibility of being Wales’ main man at their first major tournament in nearly 60 years, manager Chris Coleman believes.
Real Madrid star Bale was the driving force behind his country’s successful qualifying campaign for Euro 2016, scoring seven goals in 10 appearances as Coleman’s side finished second behind Belgium in their pool.
Wales have not competed at a major finals since the 1958 World Cup, and all eyes will be on Bale in France as they look to negotiate their way through a group also containing England, Russia and Slovakia.
But Coleman expects the 26-year-old to rise to the occasion and act as an inspiration to his team-mates once again.
“Bale is integral, on and off the pitch,” Coleman told Omnisport.
“If you see him on the pitch then he’s noisy – not in what he says, but in his actions. As an attacker he’s incredibly aggressive and he’s greedy, in terms of producing quality, and he’s demanding of himself.
“He sets the level and the bar for everybody else to try to aspire to. He’s a great player. You can’t use that word ‘great’ lightly, but he is genuinely a great player and one of the best in the world – and he plays for us!
“Off the pitch he’s a quiet man, a family man. He’s passionate about his country and easy to work with. Because his standards are so high, that brings the best out of the rest of us, me included, to try and make sure that we recognise what we’ve got and utilise it the best we can.
“The tournament – he’ll take that in his stride. He’s used to playing in high-pressure situations, the spotlight’s on him every time he takes to the pitch. He likes that and that brings the best out of him.”
Bale, who became a father for the second time this week, and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey (thigh) have been omitted from Wales’ party for their upcoming friendlies with Northern Ireland and Ukraine.
But Coleman has challenged the rest of his squad to step up in the absence of their star men.
“If you take Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey out of any team – you can’t name me a team on the planet that wouldn’t miss those two players, but that’s international football, sometimes you’re going to be without them, but we can still perform as a team,” he added.