One look at that picture above and you immediately know what Gareth Bale returning to Tottenham from Real Madrid means.
This isn’t just some guy who was good for a few years before moving onto the biggest club in world football, it’s a guy who achieved legendary status in north London before he departed.
Cast your mind back to 2013, and Bale was one of – if not the – hottest property in world football. He’d just enjoyed his most electric Premier League season to date, scooping up individual awards left, right and centre as a result.
Because of him, Tottenham were no longer Europa League fodder with big ambitions, they were a club capable of challenging both domestically and in Europe. Sure, much of Spurs’ most notable progress has taken place after his departure, but Bale was the one building the blocks and putting the club on the map.
Now, after seven long years, Bale is coming home on loan. Not only has his imminent return melted the hearts of Spurs fans across the globe, it’s also given 90min another great excuse to play Football Manager 2020 during work hours.
Specifically, looking at how this 2020/21 season might pan out with Bale back in the capital.
The date is August 7, 2020.
Okay, so that’s not the date that Bale is going to be captured in real life, but the whole coronavirus mucking up the football calendar thing doesn’t translate well into a computer game.
£275,000-per-week is heading into his pocket – Spurs‘ wage contribution in this fictitious world – and a £30m option is in the contract should the club want to pick Bale up at the end of the season permanently.
So how does month one go?
Well, it’s not a brill start – as the window closes, when it normally should, Spurs are 11th in the table and Bale is yet to get off the mark in his four games to date.
Crucially though, he is starting each and every week – leaving Lucas Moura to watch on from the sidelines and fester with the Under-23s on the odd occasion.
Let’s get to January and give him some time to find his range (no, not at the driving range).
The obvious thing that stands out here is that Tottenham are participating in the Champions League. Now, we know that’s not happening during the real-life 2020/21 season, but having to skip a year on unfortunately meant Spurs got in.*
*They also won the Carabao Cup and finished as FA Cup runners-up in this weird fantasy world*
As for Bale, he’s doing okay. Keeping fit and healthy, he’s playing more often than not but isn’t pulling up any trees with his performances. Four goals in 15 Premier League appearances is what you’d expect from Lucas Moura, not a club legend who is earning more money per week than what 20 full-time shop assistants do in one year.
He is part of a Spurs side who has breezed into the Champions League knockout rounds and are keeping pace with Premier League leaders Manchester City. It’s actually quite a fascinating battle up there, for once.
April 1, 2021 – are Spurs still on track? Well, kind of.
The Champions League dream swiftly flew out of the window as Mourinho’s boys were taught a two-legged lesson by Napoli, but the Premier League continues to treat Bale and Spurs well.
The Welsh wizard has eight goals in 25 Premier League games, and 11 in all competitions (you’re going to say this isn’t good enough, aren’t you). What’s nice to see is that Bale has spent no time at all on the substitutes bench, so those days of playing with pretend telescopes and taking naps are long behind him.
Oh, and he did this in the north London derby…
So far, this isn’t a bad return at all.
Can Spurs keep hold of second, even though the title looks to be heading back to Pep Guardiola and co?
No, no they can’t.
But this isn’t because of a monumental Spurs calamity, it’s actually because Manchester United have got Anthony Martial firing on all cylinders (he wins the Golden Boot, whack some money on it).
Spurs instead finish third, and although there’s no trophies to lift at the end of the season, definite progress has been made. Bale’s played a big part in that, and his return to north London has coincided with the signing of a striker – Dominic Calvert-Lewin – to support Harry Kane.
Typically, he’s barely played and now wants to leave the club because Harry won’t let anybody else play. For christ sake man, give someone else a go.
The one burning question is does Bale stay on permanently at the end of the season? Of course not, peak Daniel Levy strikes again!