Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at Gareth Bale.
Bale performed for Tottenham Hotspur between 2007 and 2013 and made a spectacular return to the club in 2020.
Returnees – Gareth Bale
First spell at Tottenham
Gareth Bale joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2007 from Southampton at the age of 18. As a left-back he had started to shine for the South Coast club and caught the attention of then-Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. The start of his career with Spurs was not what Bale would have wanted, with injuries ruining life at his new club.
A major ligament injury in his right ankle following a challenge with Birmingham City’s Fabrice Muamba led Bale to miss the rest of his first season at Spurs. Then, in 2009, Bale had to have knee surgery and missed another two months of first-team football.
Injuries were one thing, but when Bale could play he managed to stay out of any winning Spurs team until he clashed with Burnley in a 5-0 win as a substitute. late. High expectations were high from Bale but luck was not on his side. This would all start to change in 2010.
Bale took home the BBC’s Goal of the Month award for an outrageous volley against Stoke City in the Premier League and his form has started to improve. On October 20, 2010, Bale came of age by scoring a sensational hat-trick against Inter Milan in the Champions League.
At the end of the 2012/13 season, Bale won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award and the Young Player of the Year award. The awards kept coming in and the Football Writers’ Association also made him the player of the year. It was another incredible hat trick for Bale and one that had only been achieved by a player before him – Cristiano Ronaldo.
The appeal of Spain and Real Madrid was too difficult for Bale and as much as Tottenham president Daniel Levy tried to keep his Welsh wizard, the player was not going to play for Tottenham again. Well, not yet.
Bale’s power and athleticism quickly wowed Los Blancos fans. Some media have attempted to suggest that there is a bad relationship between Bale and megastar Cristiano Ronaldo, but Ronaldo himself has called Bale ‘amazing’.
Bale was now part of one of the most terrifying and prolific strike forces in world football. Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema all terrifying attacking teams and defenses. Between them, they have scored 200 goals in two years.
Bale’s biggest successes have come in the Champions League, which he has won four times with Madrid. In the 2018 final against Liverpool, Bale was a substitute and stepped in in the 61st minute of the game and ended up being the man of the match, such was the impact he had.
Bale has scored twice in this game, but it will always be the first goal he will remember. A superb kick over the head pretty much summed up the incredible talent the Welshman had become.
Twelve trophies at Madrid are nothing short of amazing, but the relationship between Bale and manager Zinedine Zidane was already falling apart. Zidane left Madrid in 2018 but returned as manager in March 2020 and Bale was isolated and a player needed a new club. This new club must have been familiar.
Return to Tottenham Hotspur
Very few transfer windows have passed without Bale being linked with a return to Tottenham Hotspur, until in September 2020 he became one of many returning players to return home. Bale was ready to bring his winning mentality to his old club.
Spurs have been without a trophy for 13 years, Bale struggled to buy time and Spurs had series winner Jose Mourinho at the helm. It seemed like a match made in heaven.
Bale’s impact on his return to Tottenham Hotspur
Gareth Bale’s return has not had the desired impact on Spurs. He has only played 19 times and started only 11 times in all competitions, including only three in the Premier League.
A header that turned out to be the home winner against Brighton & Hove Albion had turned out to be the biggest impact Bale has made for Spurs since his return. However, in his last start – a 4-0 win over Burnley on Sunday – Bale scored twice and got an assist.
Bale’s first stay in north London can never be taken away from him. Can he still become a returning legend and pull Spurs to success this season? Only time can now tell what’s next for Bale who so far proves that returning players don’t always succeed.