Why Gareth Bale could struggle to break into Tottenham’s starting line-up

Gareth Bale has been struggling to start for Tottenham since returning to the club.
Gareth Bale has been struggling to start for Tottenham since returning to the club.

How quickly things can change in football. Six years ago, Gareth Bale was the world’s most expensive footballer, having completed an £85 million transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid.

The Welshman’s six-year stay in Madrid has been eventful, with him winning two La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League trophies and a couple of other titles in the Spanish capital.

However, Bale has now returned to where it all started. This summer, the 31-year-old joined former club Tottenham on loan but his return has so far not gone as planned.

Bale returned to Tottenham in September but had to wait till October to make his debut due to an injury he was carrying. Despite returning to full fitness, he has made just three appearances thus far, two of which have been as a substitute.

As it stands, he’s struggling to break into Tottenham’s starting line-up due to the form of Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura. While his return was expected to be grandiose, he’s been restricted to a bit-part player in the team.

You can tell that Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho is not impressed, either. The Portuguese was upbeat when Bale first joined and even aimed a dig at Real Madrid for their treatment of the winger.

He maintained that Bale was not past his best, insisting the Wales international is one of the main reasons why Madrid has been successful in recent years.

“One thing is reputation, another thing is facts. I would love to have his reputation and four Champions League titles. I have only two. So, the facts with Gareth are that he made a difference at that club," Mourinho said of Bale, as quoted by AS.
"[It] was a club that had gone for years and years and years and years, without even a quarter-final in the Champions League. Then, a big jump in front with three consecutive Champions League semi-finals. And when he arrived, they won four in five. So, for me, these are the facts. And him with us? Amazing," said the Tottenham manager.

However, even the Portuguese has now realised that he may have been wrong in his assessment of the winger. Bale was also benched during the team's 1-0 victory against Burnley in the Premier League last week.

The 31-year-old was handed his first start of the season during Tottenham's Europa League game against Royal Antwerp on Thursday. However, he failed to impress during the game and was hauled off after just 58 minutes.

In the aftermath of the game, which Tottenham lost 1-0, Mourinho made it clear that the players had let him down. The Portuguese also hinted that he was going to stick to his best XI in future games.

"You know what our best team is. I always like to think the players deserve an opportunity. We have a big squad," said Mourinho, as quoted by Goal.
"It's also their opportunity, to catch the chance with both hands and ask for more. After tonight, my future choices are going to be very easy," Mourinho added.

Should Mourinho keep his word, it means Bale’s time on the bench will continue in the upcoming weeks. With the kind of form Kane and Son are currently in, it’s difficult to see Bale breaking into the side anytime soon.

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Edited by Ritwik Kumar
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