Wales captain left north London seven years ago to join Real Madrid for a then world-record transfer fee
Sunday 20 September 2020 07:56, UK
Gareth Bale has rejoined Tottenham on loan from Real Madrid.
The Wales captain has completed a remarkable return to Premier League, seven years after joining Madrid from Spurs in what was a world-record £86m transfer.
The 31-year-old flew to London on Friday after completing a medical in Madrid, with Spurs agreeing to pay about £20m in wages and loan fees.
He was accompanied by team-mate Sergio Reguilon, who also completed a move from Real to Spurs in a separate five-year deal.
"It's nice to be back. It's such a special club for me where I made my name, what an amazing club with amazing fans, it's incredible to be back," Bale told the club's website.
"Hopefully now I can get some match fitness, get underway and really help the team to win trophies.
"I always thought when I did leave that I would love to come back one day, the opportunity has now arisen and I feel like it is a good fit at a good time.
"I am hungry and motivated to do well for the team. I can't wait to get started.
"By going to Madrid and winning trophies, and going far with the Wales national team, I have got that winning mentality.
"You don't realise until you are there in finals and those situations. Hopefully I can bring belief into everybody that we can win trophies. The target is to do that this season, I want to bring that mentality back to Tottenham.
"Since I have left the club has been building, the stadium is incredible, the training ground is better than before. It's an exciting time."
Bale, who won two La Liga titles, four Champions League trophies, as well as the Copa del Rey in a trophy-laden spell in Spain, will wear the No 9 shirt at Spurs.
It has been a turbulent year for Bale, who fell out of favour under head coach Zinedine Zidane - with whom he has shared a strained relationship with in Madrid - and came close to leaving for Chinese side Jiangsu Suning last summer.
The player revealed in an interview with Sky Sports earlier in September he would be open to a return to the Premier League if the Spanish club would let him go.
Bale only managed three goals in 20 appearances for Real Madrid last season, but has now returned to the club where he made his name as one of the world's best footballers.
It will take the player up to a month to be fully match fit as he increases the firepower of a team that already has Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane.
Tottenham's head coach Jose Mourinho recently admitted he had always been a fan of the player, but failed to sign him when he managed Real Madrid.
Mourinho added the Spanish club took his advice and bought the player after Mourinho left Madrid in 2013.
Sky Sports News reporter Ben Ransom in Madrid...
On Thursday, when Gareth Bale left the Real Madrid training ground for the final time, his departure was met with apathy by the dozen or so fans waiting at the gates for a glimpse of their heroes.
Compared with the clamour for Luka Modric to give them so much as a wave, it struck me how far Bale has fallen in the eyes of the public here.
Both players joined following standout seasons with Tottenham Hotspur, and both have played a key role in winning no less than four Champions League titles.
But the similarities end there, as one will forever be tarnished by his failure to fully embrace what it means to be a Real Madrid player.
I've heard much criticism of Bale during my stay here, from fellow media professionals and supporters alike, with the most common accusation being his failure to integrate himself into the Spanish culture during his seven-year stay.
Not learning the language has undoubtedly held Bale back here in the eyes of the public as he has never been able to fully connect with them, and vice versa.
No surprise then to hear anecdotes of him slowly becoming more insular as time has gone on and finding solace on the golf course.
That's despite Bale continuing to delight on the pitch with moments of pure magic, such as the overhead kick against Liverpool in 2018, one of two goals that brought the European Cup back to the city for a 13th time.
Goals like that should have been career-defining, and perhaps one day the fans here will reflect upon all the good things Bale did for the club, rather than focus on the negatives.
Injuries have taken their toll and will almost certainly have caused the man himself every bit as much frustration as the club paying his wages.
An increasingly difficult relationship with Zinedine Zidane has reduced Bale's playing time further, and there is an overwhelming feeling Zidane's desire to get rid of the man who was once the world's most expensive player is best for all parties.
I should add I've encountered little animosity for Bale. Many fans simply wish him well for the future, but in many ways that only reinforces the lack of passion within this relationship.
Despite a hugely expensive marriage, Los Blancos have never truly won Gareth Bale's heart, perhaps a return to his former love in north London will unlock his passion for football once more.
Bale has enjoyed much of his success on the right wing and - despite those infamous White Hart Lane chants reminding Harry Redknapp that he 'plays on the left' - it is there that the 31-year-old forward would expect to be deployed on his return to the Premier League.
In the autumn of his career, those bursts of pace down the outside are likely to become more infrequent but Bale will surely retain the ability to cut inside and find enough space to fire off shots from distance with his favoured left foot - something that he does better than almost anyone.
In the final season of his first spell with Spurs, Bale scored no fewer than nine Premier League goals from outside the box - which was as many as the two next best players that season combined. Indeed, nobody has come close to matching that tally since.
Even after a season of relative inactivity, clubs are interested in that kind of firepower. Manchester United's pursuit of Jadon Sancho indicates that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not yet ready to entrust the role on the right to Mason Greenwood alone and wants more than a mere deputy.
Read our full feature here to read why Bale chose Tottenham over Man Utd and if he can be a success in the Premier League again.
Dwindling game time begs the question whether Bale still possesses the power and prowess that earned him Galactico status back in 2013.
He has never completed more than 75 per cent of possible minutes in a La Liga season, primarily through injuries and, more recently, dropping out of favour - resulting in him clocking a career-low 31 per cent of possible minutes last term.
The interactive graphic below shows a range of per 90 stats, revealing how his numbers have indeed dipped in recent seasons after hitting peak form for Madrid in 2015/16.
Since 2018/19, Bale has averaged far fewer goals and created far fewer chances, while his frequency of attempted dribbles has been in decline for five of the previous six campaigns.
Interestingly, his number of ball recoveries dipped significantly shortly after his move to Madrid, which could have resulted from adapting to the league style - but Jose Mourinho would expect more and is keen to improve Spurs' pressing higher up the pitch.
Bale has been primarily deployed as a right winger with 174 starts in this position since 2013/14, but has also reaped considerable success down the left with 20 goals in just 36 appearances, while he could also provide much-needed cover for Harry Kane up top.
How does he compare among the best in Europe's top five leagues now?
Last season, his per-90 returns still ranked among the elite for touches in the opposition box and aerials won. But, as the radar graphic below reveals, he produced mediocre numbers for the majority of attacking stats.
When factoring he was playing for the La Liga champions elect and his advancing years, question marks remain over whether the Welsh wizard has lost his hunger at Real, or lost his edge.
The signings of Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon could see Tottenham's formation change as Jose Mourinho completes one of the biggest tactical shifts of his long and illustrious managerial career.
Bale's return would be a major coup for Spurs and reignite enthusiasm from supporters but the onus would be on Mourinho to make best use of his undoubted ability. The acquisition of Bale's young Real Madrid team-mate could prove to be a key factor in achieving that.
It will surely bring a change of formation, one hinted at since Mourinho arrived...
The summer transfer window closes at 11pm on Monday October 5 with a feast of activity lined up on Transfer Deadline Day on Sky Sports News and across our Sky Sports platforms.
A domestic-only window for deals between the Premier League and EFL then runs from October 5 and closes on Friday October 16 at 5pm. Follow all the news and analysis on SSN and across Sky Sports' digital platforms, including with our dedicated Transfer Centre blog.