The dreams of all Tottenham fans are about to come true with Gareth Bale closing in on a return.
Bale will join Spurs on a season-long loan from Real Madrid, which is where he went when leaving north London for a then world-record fee of £85million seven years ago.
Bale is coming back to a club where the fans adore him
It’s not clear whether the signing will be a success. Will we see the Bale of the 2012/13 season or a Bale that resembles a dodgy tribute act of a once great player?
One thing no one can deny is that he was a fine player in his first spell at Spurs.
It took time for the Welshman to show just how great he was though. In his first 24 appearances for Spurs he wasn’t on the winning side.
Harry Redknapp, Spurs’ manager at the time, almost offloaded him to Birmingham in January 2009.
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He was a Spurs player when they last won a trophy – the League Cup in 2008 – but didn’t get a winners’ medal.
However, former Arsenal defender Martin Keown credits Redknapp’s treatment of Bale for helping the player become a star.
Keown told talkSPORT: “He was a very important player for them, what he did for that football club, the way it took off.
“Harry Redknapp moved him from left-back and right wing and it’s quite phenomenal what he’s done since.”
Bale’s last appearance for Spurs came in a pre-season friendly at Swindon
Bale may have struggled to convince the fans, the media and even opposing teams but his teammates didn’t doubt his ability.
Former Spurs player Clive Allen revealed how when he had brief stints as caretaker boss, the players were in awe at what Bale could do on the training ground.
Allen told talkSPORT 2: “I was involved as a coach when Gareth was there and there were days on the training field when his fellow professionals would just go wow, did we just see that? Is that what he can do?
“And then obviously I was a party to it when we had that most memorable of nights in the San Siro when Gareth just proved to the world what a talent he was with the hat-trick he scored.
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“Hes one of those players who is up there with the very best; a fit Gareth Bale can do the things no other player can do. His speed is exceptional, allied with technical ability.”
Darren Bent, Bale’s former Spurs teammate, echoes what Allen says.
Bent told talkSPORT: “He struggled a little bit but we saw the talent. He had the speed, he had a great left foot too.
“He was finding himself, his confidence wasn’t great but then that Champions League match against Inter happened.”
That San Siro match was where Bale really announced himself. Spurs lost the Champions League clash.
This was the match where the football world sat up and took notice of Bale
In October 2010, Spurs found themselves 4-0 down to then-European champions Inter Milan. Not ideal.
Redknapp was fearing more goals would fly into his side’s goal but the lad from Cardiff had other ideas, netting a brilliant hat-trick as Spurs almost completed a spectacular comeback.
Reflecting on that match in 2018, Redknapp told talkSPORT: “Gareth ran them ragged, you feel if we had another ten minutes we would’ve got at least a draw because they were absolutely gone.”
Spurs met Inter at White Hart Lane in the return group match. Bale played even better.
That match has been dubbed the night that finished former Inter right-back Maicon’s career as Bale beat the Brazilian time and again to help Spurs win 3-1.
Redknapp added: “He absolutely destroyed them, didn’t he? Maicon was supposed to be the best right-back in the world at the time.
“When Gareth got the ball, Maicon must have been like ‘oh no, here we go again!’ It was unbelievable.”
Almost overnight, Bale became a superstar and interest in him soon developed. Jose Mourinho recently revealed that he tried to sign Bale when in charge of Real Madrid
His soon-to-be new manager said: “I tried to sign him for Real Madrid which was not possible to do during my time there but the president followed my instinct and followed my knowledge. There is no secret on that. I think even Gareth knows that.”
Bale arguably played his best football in his career in the 2012/13 season, which saw him move into the No.10 role.
Bale is set to make an emotional return to Tottenham Hotspur
He earned a stream of compliments from Spurs’ then-manager Andre Villas-Boas but arguably the best he received came after a stunning hat-trick at Aston Villa in December 2012.
Villas-Boas said: “Hes up there with the best. Hes showing tremendous skills and talent. I think hes improving every game. You recognise he is one of our major assets, for sure.
“His left foot is wonderful and the power and direction he applies on the ball is wonderful too.”
Bale’s first child, Alba Violet, even has the same initials as Villas-Boas
As mentioned, it’s hard to say what Bale Spurs will be getting, which former Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor points out.
However, Agbonlahor knows first-hand just how great Bale was in Spurs colours.
He told talkSPORT: “What Gareth Bale are they going to get? Is it the Gareth Bale that played for Spurs, that I played against, who was one of the best players Ive ever played against
I remember he scored against a goal against Villa; I was playing and I saw him run the length of the pitch, three or four players dived in to try and tackle him and no one could get near him, and then he put it in the bottom corner.”
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But perhaps the best way to sum up what Bale was like at Spurs first time around is to consult someone who played with him for many years.
Speaking to talkSPORT, former Spurs defender Michael Dawson, simply said: “I count myself lucky to have played with him over so many years.”
Spurs fans who saw him play will feel the same and now they’ll get to relive it all over again.
It almost doesn’t matter if Bale isn’t as good as he was last time. The fact that he’s coming back is enough for Spurs fans
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