Gareth Bale’s station amid the nether regions of the Ballon d’Or 2016 betting has begun to look stranger and stranger with every step he and his Wales teammates take towards a first major tournament qualification in 57 years.
Neymar (15/1) and the Welshman’s Real Madrid colleague Cristiano Ronaldo (8/1), are 7/100 favourite Lionel Messi’s closest pursuers, while Bale is afforded 100/1 no-hoper status alongside Tottenham’s Harry Kane and LA Galaxy’s Steven Gerrard.
Few will nit-pick with the Argentine’s place at the head of the market after he scored 58 times in 57 appearances to inspire Barcelona to a domestic and European treble.
Nor will they quibble with Ronaldo, who hit an even greater 61 strikes in 54 outings for a side shutout of the trophy cabinet by their Camp Nou rivals.
Yet, long-shot or not, Bale is close to achieving the kind of feat that neither man has proven capable of during careers of never-before-paralleled individual brilliance.
Namely, inspiring his national team to a longed for overachievement.
For all their extra-terrestrial ability neither Messi nor Ronaldo has proven capable of inspiring their nation to glorious acts on the international stage, despite single-handedly winning games for their clubs on a regular basis.
Neither had previous Ballon d’Or winners from minor-league football nations, such as George Best, who won the award after lifting the European Cup with Manchester United in 1968.
The former Southampton and Tottenham forward’s match-winning header eight minutes from time against Cyprus means that his Wales side can now seal Euro 2016 qualification two matches ahead of schedule if they beat Israel on Sunday.
It was his sixth goal in qualification for the tournament, meaning he has scored two thirds of their Group B goals to date, also assisting two of the remainder.
To say that Bale has been the pole star, leading light and inspiration of a Wales team on the verge of a historic achievement is an understatement and he is deserving of a higher standing in the Ballon d’Or shake up.