How do you solve a problem like Gareth Bale? This isn’t a jolly for Julie Andrews to sing along to but instead a question that must be running through Jose Mourinho’s mind on a daily basis. At his disposal he has a four time Champions League winner, a master marksman in front of goal and unlike anybody else in the Spurs squad, a serial winner. Yet, things just haven’t happened for Bale this term.
The Welshman is a different player to the one who left for Real Madrid in 2013 but still one with bags of talent. His cameo against Manchester City showed glimpses of the player we know he can be, but he hasn’t been given enough consistent gametime for us to make a complete judgement on him as a player this year.
For somebody who was set to make up a deadly attacking trio alongside Harry Kane and Hueng-Min Son, to only make two Premier League starts is incredibly disappointing. Bale needs a run of games to truly prove himself and here is where the Europa League could benefit him as a player. Now, it isn’t the tournament Bale wants to be playing in, this is the man who scored the greatest Champions League winning goal of all-time three years ago, but he must put his ego to one side if he is to make his time at Tottenham a success.
He started every group stage game and is likely to continue that on Thursday. Impressing and scoring goals in this tournament will allow Mourinho to give him more chances in the Premier League, which in turn should see Bale’s desire, workrate and performances increase. He hasn’t made five starts in a row in all competitions since December 2018, which has not only seen his desire dissipate but also his match sharpness. The Europa League can provide minutes and confidence for Bale away from the pressures of the Premier League, starting with Spurs’ trip to Budapest this week.
Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order. But where do Tottenham rank?
The second half of the season certainly feels pivotal in Bale’s career. With his Real Madrid contract expiring in 2022 and currently 31 years old, he has until the end of this season to potentially earn either another loan move to Spurs, or a permanent deal. At the minute, they are unlikely to want to keep him, which would leave him trying to find another loan club or spending another season unwanted in Madrid. More to the point, does Bale even care anymore about his footballing career?
He has earnt enough money to last him a lifetime and perhaps he’d enjoy another year of golf in sunny Spain. Under Zinedine Zidane, he has no future with Los Blancos. It is now simply a question of desire. Mourinho has proved time and time again that there is a way back for players in his squad, Tanguy Ndombele was highly criticised by the Portuguese boss but is now one of Spurs’ key players.
If Bale works as hard as he did at the Etihad on Saturday and shines in the Europa League, he could get his career back on track and potentially earn a permanent move back to north London. He is running out of time though and if he is not careful, his career will fizzle out. Mourinho won’t hand him chances for free and this is now purely down to Bale and his endeavour to make it work.
Most people have written him off as a has-been. The talent is still there but now he needs to rediscover the desire that made him one of the world’s best.