At the end of a week that I thought we might see the beginning of the end of Gareth Bale in Tottenham, he gave us a glimpse of why it might not be over for him after all.
For most of the time I’ve seen Bale this season, I’ve felt like my old Spurs team-mate was happy to act as a substitute and just run around – which disappointed me the most considering how good it is he
It was different at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The highlight of Bale’s 18-minute cameo from the bench against Manchester City was obviously his dribbling past three men that ended in a shot that forced Ederson to make a decent save.
But I also noticed a moment when he was back in midfield and turned in his defense to yell at them to get on the field.
There were a few other little things like this – not a flash of fabulous skill, just a bit of demeanor or intent – that got me thinking, wait a minute, he’s actually interested here. He cares.
That’s the least I expected from Bale when he returned to Spurs on loan from Real Madrid in September, but for the entire time he was there, moments like this were too rare.
In two Premier League starts for Spurs this season and five other league games from the bench, Bale has scored a goal – the winner against Brighton on November 1 – and failed to make assists for a total of 249 minutes
As we saw at the Etihad Stadium, he’s still a ridiculous talent. You just have to get him on the side, let him drive, and get him to play football like he does for Wales. I hope that can happen at Spurs, but it’s probably only Bale who knows if it will.
What he has to show now is more of that hunger. Without her, his amazing career threatens to end on a whimper, and Bale’s great talent deserves far more.
What happens next?
Bale’s social post was a contradiction of reality – Mourinho
Even without knowing the full details, it is clear that there is a problem between Bale and his manager Jose Mourinho after seeing what happened last week.
When a manager talks about a player’s social media posts and declares they are not true – in this case, Mourinho responded when Bale said on Instagram that he had a good training session before taking Tottenham’s FA Cup defeat missed the week against Everton – then 100% there is a problem.
The Bale, which Mourinho and Spurs fans likely expected when he signed in September, didn’t deliver. From the player’s point of view, he may not agree with the way Mourinho wants to play or how he tried to deal with him.
So what’s next? Is what we saw from Bale on Saturday is a sign that he and Jose can settle their differences and that Bale can start more games.
Or do things just fall apart again and we end up seeing even less of Bale than before?
We’ll find out in the next few weeks.
Being the third sub is no Mourinho nudge
In Tottenham’s first move against City, Moussa Sissoko replaced Lucas Moura at halftime, Dele Alli came to Tanguy Ndombele on 64 minutes and Bale was introduced for Erik Lamela in the 72nd minute
I’ve seen a lot when Bale came on for City – he was Mourinho’s third and last substitute when Spurs lost 3-0 – but there you can only speculate about the Tottenham manager’s thought process.
If their relationship really broke down, then maybe Mourinho knew his team was very tired and they have busy schedules, so Bale and Dele Alli – who had also fallen from grace – both only appeared because he thought the game was over So he put two players out there that he might not use much anymore.
I do not believe that. Personally, I think he made the changes based on what was happening in the game – and it had nothing to do with where Bale is in the pecking order.
For example, when he came on as a substitute for Moussa Sissoko at half time, it was 1-0 and Mourinho probably thinks we just have to stay in this game and if we do, things can happen.
This isn’t a nudge to Bale, nor does it make him try to get back into the game. Just leaving him on the bench or out of his squad would have done that.
Time to overcome the pain?
Jenas and Bale were Tottenham teammates from 2007 to 2013. It was then that Bale joined Real Madrid to pay a world record fee of £ 85million
As I said on Friday Football Social on 5 Live last week, people are stupid if they expect to see the same Gareth Bale that was there when I was with him at Spurs.
Miles on the clock are not the problem as he has only played a few games for Real there in the last two seasons. At the same time, it hardly helps that he has not played regularly for a long time. He’s 31 now, with injuries and a different player from the one who tore teams apart in my day.
What I was expecting, and what he has not yet shown, was that he would come back with an attitude that read, “I know how to win things at the highest level and I will help you do the same”.
Basically, I wanted him to say, “Spurs got me on the world stage. Now I’m going to bring all of those experiences back to this club that I love and show you a lot of how it’s done. ‘
That can happen anyway, because Spurs still have a lot to play this season, both in the race for the top 4 and in the Carabao Cup final and in trying to win the Europa League.
If he shows the same attitude he showed when he played against City, even after the game is already lost, Bale can still keep his presence counted.
A number of games could make all the difference
Bale has only started two Premier League games this season, beating West Brom 1-0 in November and losing 1-0 to Brighton on January 31 when he was sent off after 61 minutes. In total, he made 16 appearances in all competitions and scored four goals. He only played 90 minutes against Wycombe in the FA Cup once
Spurs fans must have seen Bale on Saturday and thought we had to use him more, but part of that also depends on the player.
I know when I played with him at Spurs under Harry Redknapp, even when he was a kid, he was one of those players who, if he knocked a little, was in pain and if it was his ankle or knee, he would don’t feel right playing.
Harry just ignored him and said ‘get out there’. To a certain extent, Jose now has to do something similar.
Before Saturday, Bale Mourinho had shown nothing when starting him in the Premier League or even when he recently knocked him off the bench.
Yes, Bale could turn around and argue that he didn’t have a series of games to build a rhythm.
But in Mourinho’s defense, as I saw, Bale didn’t really deserve that chance.
Hopefully what we’ve seen at Etihad may, belatedly, be the start of something for him at Spurs because I think he still has so much to offer – if he wants it badly enough.
J.Ermaine Jenas spoke to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.