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Gareth Bale should have been sent off for reaction to diving at Fulham – Graham Poll

Bale is not yet in Ronaldo's class (for diving) but he should have been sent off at Fulham

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UPDATED:

08:21 GMT, 3 December 2012

Gareth Bale is unquestionably a brilliant player. He is a superb athlete who makes and scores goals for Tottenham and Wales.

As a result he is understandably a marked man – but by opponents or referees

His fourth caution for simulation in two seasons makes him the worst offender in the eyes of referees but his manager claims he is being unfairly victimised as his reputation is going before him.

Sarcastic: Gareth Bale was booked for diving against Fulham

Sarcastic: Gareth Bale was booked for diving against Fulham

More from Graham Poll…

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Sportsmail's expert guide to the referees in charge of the big midweek games
27/11/12

Graham Poll: Foy should know there are consequences for ignoring dissent… just ask Bernie Angell
25/11/12

Sportsmail's expert guide to the refs in charge for this weekend's big games
23/11/12

Graham Poll: Throw the book at Chelsea after false Clattenburg claim
22/11/12

Graham Poll: Adebayor had to go, but 'Jekyll and Hyde' Suarez should also have seen red
18/11/12

Sportsmail's expert guide to the refs in charge for this weekend's big games
16/11/12

Sportsmail's expert guide to the refs in charge for this weekend's big games
09/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

I was called by a Spurs fan who claimed
that Bale’s caution for diving on Saturday at Fulham was a scandalous
decision. I watched the highlights with interest.

Irrespective of whether you think the decision right or wrong, I think all would have to agree that at the pace it was played and the amount of contact with the opponent being questionable, it was a very difficult decision.

Andre Villas-Boas raised a fair and valid point when he said that Bale has suffered a lot of injuries and often tries to avoid contact as the pace he plays at leaves him susceptible to knocks even after slight contact. It is also very difficult for him to keep his balance at such electrifying pace.

Referees will be looking for unnatural falls and the way Bale goes down is dramatic and often not consistent with the amount of contact.

There are obvious comparisons with former Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who in his early days at Old Trafford also used to hit the turf on a regular basis.

Having refereed both, I have to say that they are different players at different points in their careers. Ronaldo was new to English football, having come from Portugal where players going to ground is an accepted practise – he thought that was right. Bale understands the Premier League and the expectations within it.

Referees need to study the DVDs of Bale very closely and think about their approach towards him. Why, for example, would he dive in a neutral position in midfield

Tumble king: Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Real Madrid, used to hit the turf with regularity while at Man United

Tumble king: Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Real Madrid, used to hit the turf with regularity while at Man United

Could it be that he is wary of getting
injured and is pulling out of challenges – not to ‘con’ the referee into
giving a free-kick, but to avoid injury

Is he appealing for the free-kick or just getting up and on with the game After all, when a referee is unsure there is nothing wrong with playing on in such a situation.

Perhaps a meeting between a senior referee and Bale and his manager would help each other see the opposing viewpoint. At that meeting, I would hope that the referee’s side would point out that whatever the decision, Bale should not applaud sarcastically as he did on Saturday. That should have resulted in his dismissal for a second caution.

Good week for… Mark Clattenburg

He made a brilliant and vital decision at the Emirates on Saturday. As Oliver Giroud appeared to go clean through, Chico Flores made a great tackle and clipped the ball away from the Frenchman, who then went to ground. Without seeing the contact, Clattenburg would have had to give a free-kick and send Flores off. His communication was excellent and explained the reasons for his decision clearly.

Good week: Mark Clattenburg had a tricky call to make and acted appropriately

Good week: Mark Clattenburg had a tricky call to make and acted appropriately

Bad week for… Platini and co (again!)

A pulsating first half at Reading was almost spoiled because there is still no goal-line technology in place. Robin van Persie ‘scored’ Manchester United’s fifth goal of a crazy half but it was not given due to the pace of the ball. There’s no blame on the assistant or referee because it is almost impossible to say for CERTAIN when watching live that the ball was over the line. It ‘probably’ was or ‘I think it was’ is not enough. When will this crazy situation be resolved

Gareth Bale should join Real Madrid, says Luka Modric

Come and join me! Modric tells former Spurs team-mate Bale to move to Real Madrid

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UPDATED:

14:13 GMT, 17 October 2012

Former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric has revealed that he wants Gareth Bale to join him at Real Madrid.

Spurs winger Bale, 23, has emerged as one of the most sought-after players in world football after setting the Premier League alight for the past couple of years.

And Modric, who left Spurs for Real in a 33million deal this summer, believes that the Welshman has the ability to fit in at the nine-time European Cup winners.

Old friends: Bale and Modric (right) chat on Tuesday night

Old friends: Bale and Modric (right) chat on Tuesday night

Forward burst: Bale gets past Croatia's Ivan Strinic in the World Cup qualifier

Forward burst: Bale gets past Croatia's Ivan Strinic in the World Cup qualifier

'He should play for Real Madrid and I
hope he’ll come,' said Modric, who played for Croatia on Tuesday night
as they beat Bale and Wales 2-0 in Osijek.

'It would be amazing and I think he can [play for Real Madrid],' he added. 'He’s a good enough player.'

Bale's
contract with Spurs runs to 2015 but the partnership that the club
signed with Real in the summer has fuelled speculation that he could
leave in a 40m deal at the end of the season.

Spurs have insisted that the partnership
does not allow Real first refusal on the club's players, but Modric's
transfer suggests a clear hierarchy in the deal.

Eyes on the ball: Andy King of Wales tries to pinch the ball from Modric

Eyes on the ball: Andy King of Wales tries to pinch the ball from Modric

Bale had netted six goals in his previous eight games for his country, but he was unable to find a way past the Croats on Tuesday night.

The former Southampton man accepts that his rise to fame now makes his a marked man.

'It is normal now I think,' Bale said after the match.

'I’m never going to stop doing what I do and hopefully I can continue to play well.'

Gareth Bale must be protected by referees, says Chris Coleman

The referee must protect Bale, insists Wales boss Coleman ahead of Croatia clash

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 15 October 2012

Chris Coleman has called for Gareth Bale to be given greater protection after admitting the Tottenham man will be Croatia’s No 1 target on Tuesday night.

Wales’ head coach is upset at the treatment meted out to the winger during the three qualification games so far and is certain of a repeat in Osijek.

Bale was the difference as Wales mounted a late fightback against Scotland last Friday, capping a virtuoso display with a spectacular winner.

Star man: Bale scored twice to help beat Scotland on Friday night

Star man: Bale scored twice to help beat Scotland on Friday night

He has now found the net in six of his last seven appearances for his country, and has scored their last five goals in qualifying. Not since Aaron Ramsey’s penalty against Switzerland 12 months ago has one of his team-mates scored.

But Bale was fouled repeatedly by Belgium and closely watched in Serbia. Coleman wants referee Alexandru Dan Tudor to keep an eye on him this evening.

‘He hasn’t had the protection he needs,’ said Coleman. ‘And there is a flip-side with players like Gareth. They can get kicked from pillar to post, so maybe they need looking after.

‘Officials have to be aware. They’re fouling but using the old hands-in-the-air routine. Running across him, having no interest in the ball.’

Marked man: Coleman fears opposition players will target Bale

Marked man: Coleman fears opposition players will target Bale

Wales team to play Croatia:

(4-4-1-1): Price; Gunter, Williams, Blake, B Davies; Bale, Allen,
Vaughan, Ledley; King; Morison.

Kick-off: 7pm, Gradski Stadium.

TV and
Radio: LIVE on Sky Sports 2 and BBC Radio Wales.

Coleman is considering using the winger in a central role, with former skipper Ramsey ruled out through suspension. ‘We’ve got options,’ he added. ‘Look where he got the winning goal from against Scotland. He was playing on the right. But when he runs through the middle, he can cause problems.’

While stopping Bale will be central to the plans of Croatia boss Igor Stimac, Coleman has Real Madrid playmaker Luca Modric to worry about. Modric was central to Croatia’s win in Macedonia on Friday night when they too came from a goal behind.

‘Teams don’t even bother man-marking him any more,’ said Coleman. ‘But someone needs to keep a close eye on Modric. There’s not many better than him. He’s so clever that if you did man-mark him, you might lose your shape.’

Wales’s last visit to the Balkans ended in a six-goal thumping in Serbia. Coleman added: ‘We were in the game at 2-1 just before half-time, but we didn’t have the game sense to accept that we should keep tight until the break and then go again. We lost a third and with it, a bit of heart. We cannot afford to be in a similar position.’

Jim Furyk says Rory McIlroy is a marked man

Move over Tiger, now Rory is the man to beat, says Furyk

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UPDATED:

23:39 GMT, 18 September 2012

Webb Simpson thought it would be nice to rent a property for his family in the local vicinity after qualifying for the Tour Championship for the first time last year.

The US Open champion was wholly unprepared for the response. ‘I wouldn’t advise it unless you own a gun,’ came the reply.

It’s not just the shots played inside the ropes that make the headlines, therefore, at this event at East Lake.

Power shift: World No 1 Rory McIlroy is the man to beat now rather than Tiger Woods

Power shift: World No 1 Rory McIlroy is the man to beat now rather than Tiger Woods

At the conclusion of last year’s tournament, commentators working for Sky walked out of their trailer and into a crime scene.

Two youths had driven through a roadblock, prompting a state trooper to shoot one of them in the shoulder.

It should be said that great strides have been made to turn the neighbourhood into a peaceful community.

Members recall a time when they wouldn’t play a hole that fringes the outskirts for fear of being mugged.

It might not be completely safe now but it’s safe enough to assume Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will avoid such a fate this week.

Taking aim: Jim Furyk says McIlroy has a target on his back

Taking aim: Jim Furyk says McIlroy has a target on his back

When Jim Furyk came into the interview room and talked about McIlroy being a marked man, then, he meant it metaphorically. ‘No matter what happens this week, he’s the present day Tiger, garnering all the attention as well he should after the season he’s had,’ Furyk said.

‘He’s a marked man, the No 1 player in the world and, the way he’s playing, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be in contention.’

The overriding feature so far leading into this FedEx Cup finale for the race to the $10million bonus has been the blossoming friendship of McIlroy and Woods.

This will be the third time in four events they have played together in the opening round, with the Northern Irishman a clear winner so far.

Indeed, no less a figure than Greg Norman this week made the astonishing claim that he believes Tiger is feeling intimidated by McIlroy.

Eden Hazard will improve, says Roberto Di Matteo

Hazard hasn't even started yet! Di Matteo tips new recruit to improve with Chelsea

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UPDATED:

14:51 GMT, 21 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Roberto Di Matteo has backed Eden Hazard to get even better for Chelsea following the 32million man's stunning Barclays Premier League debut.

Hazard made a dream start to life in England's top flight during Sunday's opening 2-0 win at Wigan, claiming two assists inside the opening seven minutes at the DW Stadium.

And Blues fans only have to wait until Wednesday to see the 21-year-old's home debut when Reading visit Stamford Bridge.

Winning start: Roberto Di Matteo was pleased with the performances of Eden Hazard and Oscar

Winning start: Roberto Di Matteo was pleased with the performances of Eden Hazard and Oscar

Reflecting on Hazard's performance on Sunday, manager Di Matteo said: 'He left his mark on the game. In pre-season, he showed that kind of quality in training.

'Now, in the Premier League, hopefully there's more to come from him.'

That could depend on how Hazard deals with the kind of rough treatment dished out to him by Wigan on Sunday, something he shrugged off afterwards.

Di Matteo was also unconcerned that his new playmaker could find himself a marked man.

He said: 'He was certainly targeted, but I don't think there was any malicious intent by the Wigan players. It's just difficult to mark players like that.'

It is just as well Hazard looks like settling in so quickly, with Oscar having only arrived at Chelsea last week and fellow new boy Marko Marin sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Di Matteo revealed that Marin may have to wait almost another month to make his debut.

'It won't be long for Marin, but it might not be before the international break,' he said.

Good on the ball: Eden Hazard impressed on Sunday

Good on the ball: Eden Hazard impressed on Sunday

He added of Oscar: 'We're slowly looking to integrate him, like we did with the other new signings. He's not been long with us, so we need to give him the right time to get him used to his new team members and the team, and our tactics, and slowly put him into the team.'

That could mean minimal changes to the side against Reading.

Di Matteo said: 'Sometimes, you look at it and think, “Don't change a winning team”, but it doesn't always work this way.

'We'll see. I haven't made our final decision yet. I have to think about it.'

Two players who may be anticipating that decision more than most are
Florent Malouda and Yossi Benayoun, neither of whom have been in Di
Matteo's matchday squads this season.

Malouda
was a target this summer for Brazilian side Santos – who claimed they
were put off by his wage demands – while Benayoun spent last season on
loan at Arsenal.

Asked
about the prospect of either being allowed to leave permanently or on
loan, Di Matteo would only say: 'We'll have to see until the transfer
window closes. At the moment, they're with us and part of it.'

Di Matteo also insisted there was no news when quizzed about
suggestions Marseille right-back Cesar Azpilicueta was poised to
complete his protracted move from Marseille.

The
Italian added there would be no new arrivals before Wednesday's
fixture, which was brought forward from the first weekend of September
due to Chelsea's involvement in the UEFA Super Cup a week on Friday.

The
scheduling gives the European champions a chance to steal a march on
their Premier League title rivals and they will go top of the table
providing they do not suffer a shock defeat.

'It's
probably better to play this game before rather than being a game
behind,' said Di Matteo, who refused to read too much into the
opening-game defeats of other big teams.

Forward thinking: Fernando Torres is put through his paces ahead of Chelsea's clash with Reading

Forward thinking: Fernando Torres is put through his paces ahead of Chelsea's clash with Reading

'The first game in the league often has crazy results. They even themselves up a bit as the season goes along.'

But he added: 'It's always crucial to get off to a good start. It gives
you a bit of confidence and makes you believe you can have a good
season.'

Chelsea will be
expected to brush aside npower Championship winners Reading but Di
Matteo knows enough about them from his time at West Bromwich not to
take them lightly.

'I always found it very hard to play against Brian McDermott's team,' he said.

Franck Ribery says Champions League final as big as World Cup final

This is as big as World Cup final! Bayern star Ribery prepares for massive night in Munich

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UPDATED:

08:05 GMT, 18 May 2012

Franck Ribery ranks Saturday's Champions League final against Chelsea alongside the 2006 World Cup final as one of the biggest games of his life.

The France international was on the losing side in Berlin's Olympic Stadium six years ago when Italy were crowned world champions, and he is desperate to be on the winning team this time.

'I would say it is the same as the World Cup final against Italy in 2006,' he said. 'That is the best thing in international football, but this is the best in club football and of course it is worth as much.'

High hopes: Franck Ribery is looking forward to Saturday's European Cup final

High hopes: Franck Ribery is looking forward to Saturday's European Cup final

The final is even more important for Ribery given he was suspended two years ago when Bayern last reached the Champions League final against Inter Milan in Madrid.

With no guarantee that he will ever get another chance to appear in such an important fixture, he is fully focused.

A night to remember: Franck Ribery celebrates Zinedine Zidane's goal in the 2006 World Cup final

A night to remember: Franck Ribery celebrates Zinedine Zidane's goal in the 2006 World Cup final

'It is not every year that you get to play in a Champions League final,' he said.

'I am now 29 and I don't know when my next chance will be, or if I will even get one.

'Maybe I can win the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal again in future, but it is harder to win the Champions League. Therefore, it is very, very important.'

Chelsea know a lot about Ribery having tried to lure him to Stamford Bridge three years ago, and the Frenchman expects to be a marked man.

He and former Blues forward Arjen Robben are widely regarded as Bayern's most dangerous duo, but this is not something which perturbs a man who is used to being at the centre of attention.

'What do you want me to say, we are both here,' he said when asked if Bayern are overly reliant on a partnership that bears the name 'Robbery' in Germany.

'We are strong when only one of us can play, but it is better for us when we are both on the field together.'

That should be the case, even if Robben only trained lightly yesterday, and Ribery expects to have plenty of possession and chances to show what he is capable of.

'They are an English team and are very compact,' he said. 'Maybe they will look to play on the counter attack and aim for (Didier) Drogba.

'Probably we will have more of the ball than Chelsea, but they are a very strong team, especially from set pieces.'