Bale may be in the money, but we still give him stick - Joe.
Byline: Chris Wathan Football correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
JOE Ledley reckons Gareth Bale deserves every penny of his bumper new Real Madrid deal - but insists being one of the greatest players on the planet won't stop him getting stick when he meets up with Wales.
Bale arrived in the Wales camp ahead of Saturday's World Cup qualifying clash with Serbia having signed a new six-year contract with the European champions. It's a deal some reports have claimed will earn him as much as PS350,000 a week after tax.
Those figures would make the 27-year-old one of the highest sports stars anywhere, but Ledley has insisted there's not a hint of jealousy from any of his international teammates.
But Ledley did say that even though Bale's incredible ability and performances mean he's right to have a superstar salary, he doesn't get any preferential treatment when he's back with his Wales pals.
Ledley said: "No-one's spoken about his contract or how much money it is - but he deserves every penny and whatever he gets in life because he's proven to be one of the greatest players on this planet.
"There is no jealousy whatsoever because we have all known Gareth since he was a boy at Southampton and for me I haven't seen any change in him at all.
"And that's brilliant on his behalf, people can change in football and go different ways. He has just stayed on that straight and narrow line and remained the same person.
"For us, he's just one of the boys, we don't care who he is, we will still hammer him and he will hammer us.
"That's the banter we have here. If you ask him he loves meeting up with Wales, and that is the togetherness we have in this squad. It doesn't matter who anybody is, we are all together as a team and you can't treat anybody different to anybody else. We are all equal."
Ledley revealed teammates are quick to jump on any rare clangers dropped by Bale - especially on the golf course - while admitting the forward's hair bobble malfunction against Georgia that saw his long hair escape also came in for stick.
Ledley laughed: "We had him for that - he looked like Tarzan or that he could be in a shampoo advert!
"There's always banter going on between us; we play golf together and if he duffs one then we are on his back because he's pretty good at golf. In fact, we're not sure at what he's not good at."
Ledley will be hoping Bale will show just where his main talent lies when it comes to a vital qualifying test against Serbia, the Group D leaders the last team to beat Wales in a competitive home fixtures some three years ago.
Wales lost 3-0 to Serbia in October 2013 having already been beaten 6-1 away in Novi Sad earlier in the campaign, but Ledley warned: "We've come a long way from then.
"It's going to be a totally-different game to then, we've come on leaps and bounds and progressed very well.
"We're still undefeated in this competition and we want to keep it that way."
> Gareth Bale and Joe Ledley in training before the clash with Austria in Vienna