Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has been named Welsh player of the year for a record fifth time by the Football Association of Wales.
Bale, who has 52 caps for his country, scored the only goal in Wales’ 1-0 win over Belgium in Cardiff in June and scored another winner to secure a 1-0 victory in Cyprus in September in the European Championship qualifiers.
The wins have put Wales on the brink of their first major finals in over 50 years.
The 26-year-old had a stellar debut campaign at Real Madrid, as he scored the winner in the King’s Cup final and also the Champions League final.
However, Bale had a difficult second season in Spain as Madrid lost their Champions League crown to bitter rivals Barcelona and has often been jeered by the supporters at Santiago Bernabeu.
“Look at the last year and he’s scored some incredible goals for us,” Wales manager Chris Coleman was quoted as saying by the British media.
“All the players have done fantastic, but in my book he deserves it because of what he’s done in this campaign,” he added.
Wales currently sit eighth in the Fifa world rankings, their highest-ever position. Coleman, though, was not amused with their failure to attract top teams to play in international friendlies despite the rise.
“I don’t know, maybe.” Coleman said, when asked whether teams were scared to face Wales. “Look at the friendly games and the big boys keep it among themselves, and that’s disappointing.
“We kind of thought that we might be able to tempt a Spain or a Germany and find out how good we are but there’s been no interest.
“There’s talk of Argentina after Christmas. Should we get to France then we need a couple of really good juicy ones before we get out there. But for next month there’s nothing. Ideally we want two.
“We were turned down by one or two, which is disappointing. Italy didn’t want to play us.”