Adam Lallana is confident England will not be intimidated or overawed by Gareth Bale, despite rating the player he grew up with among the world’s best.
A decade on from making their first steps into first-team football together, the graduates of Southampton’s academy will lock horns at Euro 2016 when Lens hosts an eagerly-anticipated Group B encounter on Thursday..
The duo have come a long way from the days when their families traipsed around academy, reserve and Championship matches together, with both heading to France on the back of European final appearances.
Bale shone as Real Madrid won a second Champions League in three years, underlining the outrageous talent that leaves England with a headache ahead of tomorrow’s match.
Lallana does not necessarily think a man-marking job is the right way to handle a player he considers among the top five in the world and rejected the notion his presence is intimidating.
“That’s not for me to decide, the tactics,” he said. “It depends how you play.
“You don’t want to leave your team too vulnerable on the counter-attack with players like Gareth Bale playing. The strengths and qualities that he has.
“But it’s not a one-man show. They’ve got plenty of other good players.
“I have the pleasure of playing with Joe Allen and know what a talent he is. Aaron Ramsey is another one who is very talented, so we can’t just put all our focus on Gareth then get a sucker punch from one of their other good players.
“It’s right we respect the whole team and look at their strengths and weaknesses and figure out how we are going to beat them.
“I know (his aura) won’t affect me or our team. We have got plenty of players with that aura and special talent. So I don’t believe that will come into play, no.
“I wouldn’t say when he was that young he had an aura around him,” Lallana said. “He was too young then.
“I think that developed as his character and ability developed. I suppose I am surprised to see how far up the pitch he is playing now.
“He was a left-back when I was playing with him, with bundles of pace and athleticism.
“It’s refreshing to see that someone can turn from a left-back into... I wouldn’t even call him a winger because he plays up front now.”