Is Gareth Bale 'Back'?

With a place in the top four on the line, Gareth Bale has returned to form under Jose Mourinho. For Tottenham, Bale is a symbol of hope and a proven difference-maker.

His time is now.

Image: Wikimedia Commons / James Boyes

Image: Wikimedia Commons / James Boyes

Gareth Bale has been drawing attention from across the football world after scoring twice and assisting once against Burnley in Spurs’ comfortable 4-0 victory at the end of last month.

His recent performance comes in a good patch of form. Playing in all four of Spurs’ most recent games, Bale has registered seven goal involvements having had just four in his previous 16 appearances.

Spurs re-signed fan-favourite Bale on loan during the 2020 Summer transfer window. He has just one season left on his contract at Real Madrid, meaning that a permanent return to the Lilywhites is on the cards.

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Re-uniting with his breakout club was huge for Bale, though his start to the season was far from romantic. With a knee injury that troubled him for months, there were reports that Spurs manager Jose Mourinho had been disgruntled with Bale behind the scenes.

With limited impact to start the season, many had forgotten the Welsh international had even returned to Spurs, with the performances of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son overshadowing him.

However, with his fitness reportedly improving, it seemed that things were heading in the right direction.

“There is not one single manager in the world that doesn’t play Gareth Bale if Gareth Bale is in very good condition.”
Jose Mourinho

Both of his goals against Burnley were reminiscent of his peak, with the first being an instinctive run to carve open the Claret defence. The second goal was an iconic left footed cut-in and curled shot into the far corner of the net.

Goals were not the only highlights though. In a counterattack in the first half, Bale won the ball deep in Spurs territory before turning up field, bursting down the side-line and playing an intricate one-two with Kane.

His assist was somewhat demonstrative of a different Bale to what we were previously used to. Possessing the ball in a deeper position than normal, Bale played a fantastic long ball to Harry Kane who was able to finish from just outside the box.

Though such playmaking is not usually associated with Bale’s game, his all-round talent as a footballer is evident. Perhaps it was a show of what Bale can do even when he loses his blistering speed?

Substituted off with 20 minutes of the match left, it is apparent that both Bale and Mourinho are wary of overworking the recovering winger, hoping to help him gradually return to full fitness.

With regards to his great performance against Burnley, Mourinho said “it’s the best Bale we have had during this season, more confidence, better condition, no bad feelings with injuries”.

So, is Bale back?

In 2013, Bale signed with Real Madrid for a then world record fee of £85 million. In the season leading up to his mega transfer, Bale scored 26 goals in all competitions and was named PFA Player of the Year.

Over seven years at Real, Bale won four Champions League trophies and scored over 100 goals. His highlights included a stunning brace against Liverpool in a 3-1 win in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final. On that day, he was crowned man of the match despite coming off the bench.

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These were just Bale’s highlights though, his lowlights ultimately overshadowed his time with Los Blancos as his unhappiness with the board, the coaching staff and the fans dominated his stint.

Real manager Zinedine Zidane had an infamously poor relationship with Bale, who felt the pacey winger was expendable. Injuries ultimately hampered his time at Real and Bale never truly reached fans’ expectations of him.

His relationship with Madrid fans reached a low point in 2019 when he hoisted a banner saying “Wales. Golf. Madrid. ” as he helped Wales reach their third major tournament – the 2020(+1) EUROS. Ultimately, Bale’s relationship with Real Madrid reached an un-mendable point.

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“Gareth Bale’s happiness has been talked about more than any other footballer’s over about the last five or six years”, said Mark Chapman on Match of the Day 2.

On his return to Spurs, the former Southampton youth product said: “It’s nice to be back. It’s such a special club to me”. Spurs fans shared his elation, with many viewing Gareth Bale as a club legend, and one of the greatest to have ever played for the club.

Following his recent rejuvenation, many are hoping that Bale can re-capture his 24-year-old form that earned a ground-breaking move to La Liga in 2013.

Though this could be a far stretch – with age and fitness being key factors – there is no doubt that Bale can return to being an impactful player for the top four-chasing Spurs, provided he continues to improve.

However, for Spurs fans, Bale is more than just a creative winger with world class potential, he is an icon and a symbol of hope. For this reason alone, there is no reason why Tottenham would refrain from keeping Bale and letting him retire a Hotspur.

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