That one week in September 2020 where Tottenham’s previously impossible quest to bring Gareth Bale back from Real Madrid was like the last week of school – you never thought it would come around, it all happens so quickly and slowly simultaneously, you watch three or four superhero films just to pass the time (‘what do you mean it’s only Tuesday?’), edging ever closer to the day. That day where it’s all worth it.
On September 19, Bale re-signed for Spurs on loan. He spoke of his passion for the club, the joy to be at a place where he was loved again, the desire to create more memories in N17. Oh, the possibilities…
Well, Gareth giveth, Gareth taketh away again, suckers.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that he was using the 2020/21 season as a platform to gain fitness for the European Championships, but added that he intends to return to Real Madrid at the end of his loan spell (pretty sure Real Madrid weren’t aware of this).
It’s a statement that will make every Spurs fan will wince and twang in discomfort upon first discovering it – even if it was said with the same gusto as Tom Jones greeting Marge Simpson while being held at gunpoint. But Bale’s decision is a beneficial one for the club.
Let’s face it, folks. It took Bale until the back-end of February to start showing his worth in lilywhite again, even if that wasn’t his own fault. His colourful injury history is worrisome for a player who turns 32 in the summer and has been playing at the top level for nearly 15 years. There’s only so many miles in a body and Bale isn’t superhuman anymore – do you think he would magically show up next season ready to play 40-50 games and score 15-20 goals?
Spurs’ squad is full of talent and quality, but if they’re able to shift a declining forward by simply removing him from the wage bill, then that should be their next move.
If Jose Mourinho is still in charge on the opening day of next season, then it’s not as if Bale would be seeing significant minutes anyway. He’s warranted more game time this season despite his fitness concerns – Mourinho insisted that a healthy Bale is a definite starter for pretty much any club in Europe, so there’s clearly reason to question his usage.
It’s not as if Tottenham is the place to be right now, anyway. Hugo Lloris admitted last week that their Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb reflected what was going on all over the club, and Bale himself said that it was nice to get away from it all for the international break.
The mood has soured and there’s little that can be done to reignite Spurs’ season now, but for their supports who have been stuck indoors for the majority of the last 12 months, watching endless re-runs of Friends and Seinfeld, a million matches forced down their throats, seeing Bale tearing teams apart with Harry Kane will be remembered for years to come.
That might be the extent of his return though – some short but ultimately good memories that’ll have to age like wine to be appreciated a bit more.
If Tottenham are to continue their ‘painful rebuild’, then mutually parting ways with Bale again is one relatively painless solution.
Reports recently suggested Daniel Levy wanted Bale to play in front of crowds again at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. While he may not get that wish for a full season, there should at least be one occasion where he lights up north London before the eyes of those who worship him again. That might just be enough.