On Monday morning (AEDT), Tottenham played and won their FA Cup fixture 5-0. Although that sounds pretty stock-standard, the team they played wouldn’t usually be associated with the third round of this competition.
Gareth Bale’s blockbuster return to Tottenham Hotspur is as much about uncertainty as excitement.
The superstar winger recently finalised a loan deal for his return to Tottenham, where he made 203 appearances while netting 56 goals in his initial run with the club.
Signed by Spurs in 2007, Bale began as a left back before moving to the left of the midfield.
Bale’s development over his six-year stint was exponential, his final season seeing him being selected as the PFA Player of the Year after scoring 21 goals in 33 games.
Eventually gaining attention from Real Madrid, he was signed in 2014 for a then world-record fee. In a turbulent couple of years as a Galactico, Bale eventually fell out of favour with coach and club legend, Zinedine Zidane.
Injuries as well as being denied regular first-team football eventually soured Bale’s relationship with manager and club alike, reaching tipping point after his unwillingness to travel with the Real Madrid squad for a Champions League game last season.
Bale leaves behind an underwhelming legacy at Madrid, the club where he was exposed to the highest level of competition, winning the Champions League four times in a highly decorated team.
Now, after returning to Tottenham, the star is looking for a fresh start in a familiar environment.
Under the direction of manager Jose Mourinho, Tottenham are looking to create an environment of success and Bale will be a significant factor in developing this environment.
But questions still loom, such as the state of his physical health, as well as how his age will affect his on-pitch performance.
Bale enters the club injured, currently being restricted by rehabilitation as well as controlled training sessions.
At 31 years of age, Bale will inevitably have to adapt to his changing body. A supreme athlete who once utilised his pace and power to overcome defenders, Bale is set to see a reduction in the performance of his physical gifts as he ages.
Not to mention competition in wide areas at the club, with Son Heung-Min, Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn already adept to Tottenham’s system under Mourinho.
The loan deal will also see Bale become the club’s highest weekly wage earner, topping star striker Harry Kane and midfielder Tanguy Ndombele for an estimated $540,000 weekly bill.
The pressure is on for Bale to perform once again in the Premier League, as well as to deliver Tottenham the success they have for so long sought. The loan signing of the winger reflects this strive for domestic success.
A potential front three of Son, Kane and Bale is promising but the Welshman must avoid injury if the club wish to compete for league and cup honours.
Bale’s experience in the Premier League, as well as his ability to perform on the biggest stage has never been in question.
Neither has his footballing intelligence, being a player who has become accustomed to double teams and defensive schemes.
However, how the star will perform after little playing time in recent seasons, as well as his history of frequent injuries, are major uncertainties in Tottenham’s quest for silverware.