Jermaine Jenas has claimed that Spurs fans have reason to be optimistic about Gareth Bale’s chances of turning his fortunes around on the back of the Welshman’s cameo against Manchester City on Saturday.
Bale came on with less than 20 minutes of normal time left at the Etihad and, even though the result seemed to be a forgone conclusion at that point, the winger looked more lively than he has in recent months.
Besides Bale’s performance on Saturday, Jenas also noticed a change in the 31-year-old’s attitude when he came on and suggested that it could potentially be the start of a turnaround in form.
The former Spurs midfielder wrote in his column for BBC Sport: “At the end of a week where I thought we might be seeing the beginning of the end of Gareth Bale at Tottenham, he gave us a little glimpse of why it might not be over for him after all.
“Most of the time I’ve watched Bale this season, it has felt like my old Spurs team-mate has been happy to come on as a substitute and just jog around – which is what has disappointed me the most, when you consider just how good he is.
“At Etihad Stadium on Saturday, it was different. The highlight of Bale’s 18-minute cameo off the bench against Manchester City was obviously his dribble past three men that ended with a shot that forced Ederson into a decent save.
“But I also spotted a moment when he was back in midfield, and turned around to his defence to yell at them to get up the pitch.
“There were a couple of other little things like that – not a flash of fabulous skill, but bits and pieces of attitude or intent – which made me think, hang on, he is actually interested here. He cares.
“That’s the very least I expected to see from Bale when he came back to Spurs on loan from Real Madrid in September, but for the whole time he has been there, moments like that have been too few and far between.
“As we saw at Etihad Stadium, he is still a ridiculous talent. You just need to get him onside, get him driven, and get him playing football like he does for Wales. I hope that can happen at Spurs, but it’s probably only Bale who knows whether it will.
“What he has to show now is more of that hunger. Without it, his amazing career is in danger of ending with a bit of a whimper, and Bale’s great talent deserves far better than that.”
Jose Mourinho was critical of Bale last week for his social media post about training on Wednesday, which the Spurs boss claimed contradicted reality.
Jenas saw that as a sign that Bale’s relationship with the Portuguese coach may be strained.
He wrote about the controversy: “Even without knowing the full details, it is clear there is an issue between Bale and his manager Jose Mourinho after seeing what happened last week.
“When you have a manager talking about a player’s social media posts, and explaining they are not true – in this case Mourinho responding when Bale had said on Instagram he had a good training session before missing Tottenham’s midweek FA Cup defeat by Everton – then 100% there is a problem.
“The Bale that Mourinho and Spurs fans probably expected when he signed in September has not delivered. From the player’s point of view, he maybe doesn’t agree with the way Mourinho wants to play, or the way he has tried to manage him.”
The BBC pundit urged Mourinho to force Bale to push through the pain barrier, revealing that former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp did just that when his former Tottenham teammate had doubts about his fitness during his first spell at Spurs.
Jenas added: “Spurs fans must have been watching Bale on Saturday and thinking ‘we have to use him more’ but part of that comes down to the player too.
“I know when I played with him at Spurs under Harry Redknapp, even when he was just a kid, then he was one of those players who if he got a little knock, then he was in pain and if it was his ankle or knee he would not feel right to play.
“Harry just used to ignore him and say ‘get out there’. To an extent, Jose needs to do something similar now.
“Before Saturday, Bale had not shown Mourinho anything when he started him in the Premier League, or even when he brought him off the bench recently.
“Yes, Bale could turn around and argue that is because he has not had a run of games to build up some rhythm. But in Mourinho’s defence, from what I’d seen, Bale has not really deserved that chance.
“Hopefully what we saw at Etihad can, belatedly, be the start of something for him at Spurs, because I think he still has so much left to offer – if he wants it badly enough.”
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With Tottenham about to resume their Europa League campaign, hopefully, Bale can get starts under his belt and show Mourinho why he deserves more opportunities in the Premier League.
One cannot blame the Spurs boss for using the 31-year-old sparingly given the standard of his performances so far and the fact that the North Londoners cannot afford to drop too many more points in the league if they have top-four ambitions.
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