Gareth Bale: Home is where the heart is for £85m star

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Media captionGareth Bale developed his love of football playing in parks around Cardiff where he grew up

Gareth Bale may have just become the world's most expensive footballer after joining Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur, but the £85m man has always stayed close to his Welsh roots.

The 24-year-old Wales international was once told by a former manager to go abroad on holiday when given a few days off but he chose to return home to Cardiff instead.

"That's him all over," said Harry Redknapp, who managed Spurs until June 2012.

Bale is often seen in the Welsh capital, most recently in Nando's where he posed for pictures with fans.

But he is not the type of player who goes out looking for attention. Teetotal Bale admits to preferring to lead a quiet life opting for resting, golf and computer games.

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Media captionBale's family watched on proudly as he was unveiled in Madrid

His uncle Chris Pike, a former Cardiff City footballer, has previously said: "He just loves playing football - he's not motivated by money, he's not motivated by fame, he's just motivated by football and he loves it."

Bale also prefers to keep his private life, which centres around childhood sweetheart Emma Rhys-Jones, out of the spotlight.

Scoring goals

The couple used to travel up and down the M4 to see each other Gavin and Stacey-style before she moved to London.

He did reveal earlier this year that the heart-shaped sign he always makes with his hands after scoring goals was a message to her but he is not comfortable talking about his family.

The couple have a 10-month-old daughter who was born in Cardiff.

Born on 16 July 1989, Bale is the youngest of two children to parents Frank, a retired school caretaker and Debbie, who works at a solicitors.

He has a sister Vicky, who is three years older and works as a primary school teacher.

Image caption Gareth Bale made an impression from an early age

He attended Eglwys Newydd primary school in Whitchurch and first came to the attention of Southampton while playing in a tournament for Cardiff Civil Service FC aged nine.

At Whitchurch High, Bale played football alongside Wales captain Sam Warburton as well as rugby and hockey. He excelled at athletics where he is said to have run the 100m sprint at 11.4 seconds, aged 14.

But football was his focus and PE teacher Gwyn Morris wrote special rules to restrict Bale to playing one-touch football and not using his trusted left foot as part of trying to develop him as a rounded player.

Up until the age of 14 Bale would also train at Southampton's satellite academy in Bath but after that, his parents would drive him to Southampton each week with Vicky joining them for games.

Image caption One of Bale's Southampton shirts is in the hall of fame at Whitchurch High School

Before being given a full-time scholarship by the Saints however, Bale had to stop playing for a while after struggling with persistent back pain caused by a big growth spurt.

He left school with a grade A in PE among his GCSE results and was awarded the department's prize for services to sport, along with a Cardiff & Vale Senior Cup winners' medal.

"His main attribute was his dedication, commitment and attitude," said Mr Morris.

"He worked so hard on his game, was willing to sacrifice things in order to progress and develop and now we are seeing the fruits of his labour."

Bale broke into Southampton's first team in the Championship in April 2006 at the age of 16, and a month later, became Wales' youngest international. He currently has 41 Welsh caps.

Unwanted record

He went on to make a total of 45 appearances for the Saints before Spurs signed him in May 2007 for a transfer fee that rose to £10m.

His Premier League debut came against Manchester United in August of that year but he set an unwanted record of playing 24 league games without being on the winning side for Spurs.

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Media caption"There's no template for what Gareth has done," says Bale's old PE teacher. Gwyn Morris made him play with play touch football against the other boys at Cardiff's Whitchurch High and could only use his weaker foot to help improve his game.

Since then, Bale has not looked back making a total of 146 league appearances for Spurs scoring 42 goals and was last season named the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year and young player of the year.

His performances for club and country have led to him becoming the world's most expensive footballer but after completing a dream move, his regular trips back to Cardiff may be fewer and far between.

"It's tremendous to see a pupil from a comprehensive school in north Cardiff achieve the standard he has," Mr Morris added.

"I think the fact he hasn't forgotten where he's come from is one of the most important things for the kids here.

"I know a lot of his closest friends are still his friends from school... and his feet are firmly on the ground.

"He's a huge global star in footballing terms and I'm sure he'll be an aspiration to kids all over Wales."

Image caption Mannequins in the Real Madrid shop with the Gareth Bale replica shirt

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