Wales manager Ryan Giggs has warned Liverpool that Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale can make the difference in the Champions League final.
Bale is not certain to start Saturday’s showdown in Kiev, despite scoring five goals in four La Liga games for the reigning European champions.
But Wales manager Giggs said the 28-year-old has the right mindset to make a decisive contribution from the bench, if that is the role given to him by manager Zinedine Zidane.
“Every time Gareth plays he makes an impact,” said Giggs. “It just shows the professional he is that he’s not sulking (when he’s a substitute) as he always seems to come on and score.
“He’s one of the best players in the world and every time he comes on to that pitch he makes a difference. Again that’s a credit to his professionalism, his hunger and desire to get in the team for that final.”
A 13th European title for Real on Saturday would see Bale equal the record of Champions League wins, or its European Cup predecessor, by a British player.
Former Liverpool defender Phil Neal currently holds the record outright with four victories and Bale would match that tally after five seasons in Madrid.
And despite having his critics in Spain, Bale has still managed to score 19 goals this season in an injury-hit campaign.
“Gareth always had potential, but he’s gone on to pass that potential,” Giggs said. “He’s been playing at a top club for a long time where brilliant players have notoriously not lasted very long.
“He has been a huge success for club and country and one of the best British players to have gone abroad because of what he’s achieved.”
But Giggs, as Manchester United’s record appearances holder, admits it is hard to see Liverpool just 90 minutes away from being crowned European champions.
“As a United fan, and playing for United for so long, it is difficult,” Giggs added. “They are our main rivals for a reason — they’ve got great history, they’re a brilliant club and it’s hard for a United fan to take.
“When I was playing you didn’t want rivals to go and win European Cups. But in those situations you just have to look after yourselves and try and win things.”