The winger, who played for a number of clubs including Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Marseille and Sheffield Wednesday over the course of a 24-year career, did however warn that Roy Hodgson’s team need to do everything they can to stop the Real Madrid forward given his ability to create game-changing moments.
“I think he’s up there with the best of the British, definitely, but I wouldn’t say world-class players”, Waddle told Squawka. “I still think he’s still learning. He can be very quiet in games. He can just produce something but he doesn’t control a football match or have a run of the game like Messi does, Neymar does or Suarez does.
“They control the game. He doesn’t dominate football matches yet. That may come but when you’re watching players of that stature, the ball seems to be at them all of the time. They’re making the decisions. They’re controlling the pace of the game. They dictate what happens.”
Bale scored the winning goal for Wales in their 2-1 opening Group B win against Slovakia, and was at the heart of their attacks in the closing stages as Chris Coleman’s side pushed forward to find a winner.
Rather than taking chances for himself, the 26-year-old attempted to pick out teammates making supporting runs, but they failed to take their chances, with Aaron Ramsey in particular dwelling too long on the ball or running down blind alleys. Waddle believes Bale needs to become assertive if he is to realise his full potential.
“He’s a fantastic footballer,” said the retired winger. “But whether it’s a little bit of belief or confidence, or cockiness or arrogance, he doesn’t seem to have that, and all these players seem to have that presence on the field. You can’t take your eyes off them. I don’t think he’s got that stature yet.”
However, England will still need to take special care in how they deal with Bale as the main danger man of the Welsh attack.
“A player with that ability, you can keep them quiet for 80 minutes or so but he will produce something”, added Waddle. “I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t do something in that game against England where people go ‘should have scored, could have scored – what a ball, what a goal.’
“It’s up to England to stop his service and get players around him very quickly, not just one but maybe two, and hustle him, get physical – not kicking him but being strong – to make him pass him back or square it. If he does that, he won’t have the impact on the game.”
Having played outside of England himself with Marseille, winning three Ligue 1 titles and reaching the final of the European Cup in 1991, Waddle praised Bale for taking the decision to move to Spain to test himself at Real Madrid, and championed the cause of more British players following his lead in the future.
He said: “If you get the opportunity, you can go and learn a lot. For improving your game and your knowledge of your game, everything about it is a completely different lifestyle. I always encourage all young players to play abroad if they can.”