Esquire's August cover star is the most wanted man in European football: Tottenham Hotspur's midfield magician Gareth Bale.
After a personal season that bordered on the ridiculous (he won PFA Players' Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and the Football Writer's Association Player of the Year Award - the first man to do so in the same year since Cristiano Ronaldo), the Welshman speaks candidly about his love of Spanish football, dealing with his critics and how his teammates reacted to his bold new haircut.
"I probably prefer Spanish football to the others," admits the Welshman, who has been consistently linked with a move to Barcelona this year - despite insisting he's staying at White Hart Lane for now.
"It’s very technical the way they play, they keep the ball well and whenever Spurs have played against Spanish teams in the past they’ve always made it difficult for us. So I’d say that Spanish football is probably the best I’ve seen. Obviously, I’d like to try other leagues in the future. Every player would like to get as high as they can and try different things. It’s something that the future holds and it’s something that I’m very interested to try in the least.”
Despite the heartbreak of narrowly missing out on another run at club football's biggest prize next season with Spurs, the 23-year-old's hunger for Champions League success remains undiminished.
“When you play in the Premier League, say you’re playing against a lower-end team, they set up to defend all the time, they set up to block you off," he explains.
"But when you play in the Champions League, all the other teams are used to winning every week, so it’s more of an open game, it’s more attacking, end-to-end. No one’s used to defending, everyone’s used to attacking and trying to win games, so it’s just all against all.
"The music is a massive thing. Zadok the Priest [Handel’s anthem that announces the arrival of the teams]. When we first got into the Champions League, it’s one of the things that most of the lads were looking forward to, hearing it in the stadium. It’s little things like that which make it special.”
In the meantime, Bale has his burgeoning status as a global football icon to come to terms with - starting with the new side-parting.
"I was waiting for the abuse to come and it came, in abundance," he says, recalling the moment his teammates first got a glimpse of his new do.
"It’s always good when it’s someone else, but when it’s you it’s horrible.”
See the full Gareth Bale interview and shoot (hair included) in the Esquire August issue, on sale Wednesday 3 July.