Premier League

Bale claims he's at his peak

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Tottenham star Gareth Bale has admitted what many people already suspect - he is playing the best football of his career right now.

The Welsh wizard has made a remarkable start to the New Year and has not only scored in his last five games for club and country but he has also hit Spurs' last six goals over four matches after two more against Lyon.

He again stole the show on Thursday as he helped Spurs to a 2-1 win over the French giants at White Hart Lane in the Europa League, scoring two free-kicks.

Bale has now hit 17 goals for the campaign, easily the best total of his career and he admits he has never played better.

"I would probably say it is the best I have been playing in my career," he told Sky Sports.

"As I said I am enjoying my football and the team is playing well which makes things easier for me.

"I just have to keep my head down and keep working hard and keep my form.

"I still have a lot of improvement, I know what I have to do but season on season I am improving but I will just keep working hard and hopefully get better."

Bale's match-winning heroics, and the way he strikes the ball from free-kicks, has led to comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo. Indeed, the Real Madrid forward would have been proud of the Spurs star's two set-piece finishes last night.

Bale opened the scoring with a shot which dipped over the wall and beat Vercoutre from some 35 yards. He then sealed the win after Samuel Umtiti's equaliser with a curling 20-yard effort with just 10 seconds of injury time remaining.

"I knew it was the last kick of the game but I had to get it up and over the wall and thankfully I saw it go in," Bale said.

"I've been practicing for ages now from all sorts of distances. "It's one of those things I think if you keep practicing, it does come off in a match."

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who started Thursday night's game ahead of Hugo Lloris, watched with amazement from the other end of the pitch as Bale's goals flew in. "Only a few players in the world have perfected the technique that Gareth has," the Spurs goalkeeper said.

"It's when you can strike with an open foot and you sort of come over the ball. A lot of times there's no spin on the ball.

"As a goalkeeper you can't tell where it's going to go, and it moves in the air. It's not impossible to stop, but it's very difficult.

"When games are tight sometimes they're won on such small margins like set pieces - free kicks and things of that nature. Gareth having that in his repertoire is fantastic for us."

Bale's superb form has inevitably led to speculation that Spanish giants Real Madrid or Barcelona will launch a bid to sign the wide man this summer.

He is contracted to the north London club until 2016, but earlier this season reiterated that he would be open to the idea of playing abroad.

Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen hopes the Welshman stays at White Hart Lane.

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"I am so glad he is in our team. He is an amazing player, everyone can see that," the Belgian said.

"I hope he stays next season."

Vertonghen was disappointed to see Umtiti's brilliant away goal go in, but he is still confident Villas-Boas' team can finish the job when they travel to France next week for the second leg.

He said: "It could be better. It's a shame they scored an away goal as they are quite important in Europe, but I think we are the better team and we are the favourites to go through to the next round."

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