The name of Welsh superstar Gareth Bale is back on the lips of the entire football world right now. The 31-year old forward, who has been with Real Madrid since the summer of 2013, is reported to be edging closer to a stunning return to Tottenham Hotspur, with a deal potentially happening this week.
Bale broke the world transfer fee record when he moved to the Bernabeu seven years ago, with Los Blancos parting with around £85m to secure his signature. Since arriving in Spain, Bale has won numerous trophies, including two La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.
During his time in the Premier League, the Welshman won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award on two occasions with Spurs.
With a return to North London looking more and more likely, here is a look at the five most iconic moments of Bale’s career thus far, in chronological order.
#1 Destroying Maicon in the Champions League
Bale joined Tottenham in a deal from Southampton in the summer of 2007, but it took the Welshman a while to settle into his new surroundings. In fact, he was not on the winning side in his first 24 Premier League games for Spurs.
By the 2009-10 season though, that all changed. Bale finally won a Premier League game with Spurs and quickly established himself as one of their key players. And when the campaign came to an end, he was able to help Tottenham to finish in fourth place – securing Champions League football for the first time in the club’s history.
Tottenham’s maiden Champions League campaign ended at the hands of Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. However, it will always be remembered for Bale’s incredible performances in the group stage against holders Inter Milan.
The match between the two at the San Siro saw Inter take a 4-0 lead after just 35 minutes following the sending off of Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes in the eighth minute. But Bale was undeterred, and in the second half, he took the match by the scruff of the neck.
Inter’s right-back Maicon – then widely recognised as the best in the world in his position – simply couldn’t cope with the Welshman’s pace and physicality. He was tormented as Bale scored a dramatic hat-trick, almost triggering an unbelievable comeback.
His performance in the return match at White Hart Lane was even better, as once again, Maicon was unable to lay a glove on him. That game saw Bale set up goals for Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko as Spurs ran out 3-1 winners.
If ever there was a moment that turned Bale from a highly rated prospect into a genuine star on the world stage, it was these two games.
#2 Scoring his wonder goal in the 2014 Copa del Rey final
There was a lot of pressure on Bale following his huge £85m move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2013. And for a short time, it looked like the Welshman would be unable to live up to the price tag.
Despite scoring on his Real debut, Bale spent a great deal of the first half of the 2013-14 campaign sidelined with injuries.
When he returned to full fitness though, things began to click. Although Real missed out on winning La Liga, Bale scored 15 goals in 27 league games, including his first hat-trick against Real Valladolid. But it was in the Copa del Rey final where his true potential was fully unleashed.
Faced with their bitter rivals Barcelona, the game was tied at 1-1 going into the final 10 minutes and extra-time appeared to be looming. But when a Barca attack was snuffed out with five minutes remaining, Bale stepped up to the plate.
Real broke away from their own box, and the ball was fed to the Welshman around the halfway line. From there, he pinged the ball past Barca defender Marc Bartra, and then sprinted past him, even leaving the pitch at one point. It was as if Bartra was running through treacle.
Suddenly finding himself inside Barca’s penalty area, Bale cut inside and coolly slotted the ball past Jose Manuel Pinto to win Real the match and the trophy. It was Bale’s first major honour with Los Blancos, and the goal still stands as one of his very best.