The Tottenham winger Gareth Bale has been voted the 2013 Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers' Association. The Wales international, 23, topped the poll of journalists with a narrow victory over the Manchester United forward Robin van Persie, who was last year's recipient when at Arsenal. Bale's 24 goals in all competitions helped take André Villas-Boas's side into the quarter-finals of the Europa League and kept them in the race to secure a return to the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.
The Spurs midfielder will receive the FWA accolade, which has been running since 1948, at a gala dinner at the Lancaster London hotel on 9 May. Bale was last week also named Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers' Association. Chelsea's Juan Mata was third, with Bale taking first place with 53% of the votes ahead of Van Persie. Tweets suggested that Liverpool's Luis Suárez received only two votes. There were also a wide range of votes for the likes of the Everton defender Leighton Baines, Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City, the Swansea forward Michu, the Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick and the Southampton striker Rickie Lambert.
Bale becomes Spurs' first winner of the FWA award since David Ginola in 1999, and the first Wales international to be selected for English football's oldest individual trophy since Everton's Neville Southall in 1985. The Tottenham midfielder said: "This award has been won in the past by some of the greatest names in football and I consider it a privilege that the FWA has selected me to be named alongside them."
The chairman of the FWA Andy Dunn, chief sports writer for the Sunday Mirror, said: "In a contest for votes that took so many late twists and turns, Gareth's penchant for the spectacular captured the imagination. "He is a player who is rising inexorably towards the rarefied levels of world stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo."