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|Gareth Bale Set To Play His Return Debut For Tottenham by Jacobgodwin345: 11:02pm On Oct 17|
You saw the headlines when he signed. Perhaps you also caught the footage of him firing balls home in training. All that remains now is to see Gareth Bale step back out onto the pitch in a Premier League game for Tottenham Hotspur. The wait is almost over.
"He is working hard, very committed, very professional, very happy," said Jose Mourinho recently as Bale's preparations continued. "I believe that the two weeks of the international break can be important weeks to his last phase of recovery and fitness problem."
The countdown to the game against West Ham on Sunday is on. The buzz is there among supporters and even the players will be feeling lifted by the presence of Britain's most successful active footballer. This Spurs squad have seen stars leave the club and others linked with moves away. Now they are joined by a four-time Champions League winner.
It is an important symbol, a statement signing with intangible benefits. But, for all the noise, all the talk of everyone being blown away by what they are seeing from Bale at Hotspur Way, these are details that will pale into insignificance when he really returns.
Bale is 31, past his prime by most standards, and there is little evidence in his output to suggest that he is likely to be an outlier. He returns off the back of his least productive seasons in a decade, having scored only three goals in 20 appearances for Real Madrid.
His only goal in club football over the past 12 months came in a Copa del Rey tie against third-tier side Unionistas in front of a small crowd in the university town of Salamanca. It is more than two years since he found the net in back-to-back games for Madrid.
Can he turn it on again? The fear is that Bale is competing not just against opponents but the memory that supporters have of him from first time around. To be specific, that 21-goal Premier League season that would prove to be his last at White Hart Lane, when he crashed in nine goals from outside the penalty box, a display of hitting power nobody has bettered since.
Perhaps that is a battle that he cannot win, but even if those heights cannot be scaled once more, that is a matter for Bale's legacy rather than a concern for Mourinho.
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