Joe Ledley has revealed that Gareth Bale still gets “hammered” by his Wales team-mates and that mega-stardom has not changed the supersonic attacker one bit. The 27-year-old became the most expensive footballer on the planet when he joined Real Madrid in 2013 – he has since been surpassed by Paul Pogba – and recently signed a new contract at the Bernabeu to become one of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world.
“He deserves every penny and whatever he gets in life,” said Ledley. “He’s proven to be one of the greatest players on this planet.
“There is no jealousy whatsoever. We have known Gareth since he was a boy at Southampton and I haven’t seen any change in him at all – that is brilliant on his behalf. People can change in football and go different ways, but he has just stayed on that straight and narrow line and remained the same person.
“He’s just one of the boys. We don’t care who he is – we will still hammer him and he will hammer us. That’s the banter we have here.
“If you ask him, he loves meeting up with Wales and that is the togetherness we have in this squad. It doesn’t matter who anybody is. We are all together as a team and you can’t treat anybody different to anybody else. We are all equal.”
Asked what specifically the Dragons players rib Bale about, Ledley referenced last month’s 1-1 draw with Georgia in 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying, when the former Tottenham Hotspur man's hair fell out of its bun.
“We had him a bit for that,” Ledley said, chuckling. “He looked like Tarzan. He gets a bit [of stick] for his barnet.
“There’s a lot of banter going on around the place. We play golf together and, if he duffs one, then we are on his back because he’s pretty good at golf. That’s depressing, actually – I don’t know what he’s not good at.”
Wales are third in Group D in European qualifying for Russia 2018, two points behind Serbia and Republic of Ireland. Bale, Ledley and team-mates welcome Branislav Ivanovic, Aleksandar Kolarov, Nemanja Matic, Dusan Tadic and Co to Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday.
Bale, who dazzled as Real won the FIFA Club World Cup in 2014, has scored 25 goals in 64 internationals – just three shy of the Wales record held by former Liverpool and Juventus striker Ian Rush.