download All Football App

Tottenham need Gareth Bale's magic.. but his arrival is a worrying sign

  /  autty

Images of magic moments conjured by Gareth Bale in a Tottenham shirt are not hard to muster.

That hat-trick against Inter Milan. Maicon's taxi. That last-gasp winner away at West Ham. That free-kick against Arsenal, a team he would score more against than any other Premier League side in his six-year stay in north London.

His last year, in 2012/13, was undoubtedly his best. 31 goals in 51 appearances for club and country were rewarded with the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year awards, as well as the FWA equivalent.

He became only the second player in history to scoop all three. Then-FWA chairman Andy Dunn said at the time: 'He is a player who is rising inexorably towards the rarefied levels of world stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo'.

Magic and shooting stars rocketing into the same stratosphere as Messi and Ronaldo have been hard to come by in N17 lately.

They have been replaced by two second-half shots on target in a 1-0 home defeat on opening day against Everton.

Or a '#ENICAndLevyOutNow' banner flown over Tottenham's gleaming new stadium before the north London derby in July.

Or a brand of football so dour that, when teamed with entirely indifferent results at best, begs the simple question; just what is the point of it all?

The potential arrival of Bale is a kaleidoscope of colour in an ocean of grey for Spurs at the moment. 'We are talking,' his agent, Jonathan Barnett, told BBC Radio Wales. 'He still loves Spurs. It's where he wants to be.'

The excitement among the fanbase is palpable, the slightly jarring mention of Dele Alli's name being thrown about aside, after he was hauled off at half time against Everton and regularly berated by Jose Mourinho for being lazy.

It's the type of deal that gives Daniel Levy fever dreams at night, too. Sell a player for a world-record fee then get them to give him back on the cheap while paying only half his wages? His grandchildren will be hearing about it for years to come.

But it's not the art of the deal driving this one. No, instead it's a steadfast belief that Mourinho is truly the Chosen One in Levy's eyes. He is emboldened in the belief that he's backing the right horse to drive forward a deal that will shatter the wage structure of the club. And that's where a risk is being taken.

In Amazon's All or Nothing, Levy is seen gazing upon Mourinho like a lover. He describes Mourinho, a man sacked by his last two clubs, as one of 'two world class managers' that remain in the world. He loiters uncomfortably around Mourinho's office for a natter. He is totally, unconditionally, smitten.

For years, the model was clear. Sign players around the age of 25 and under, knowing they couldn't compete for the biggest names in the world and hope they develop into something special. If they were a bargain to keep Levy happy, like Christian Eriksen or Dele Alli say, all the better.

With a manager like Mauricio Pochettino, who loved working with young players, it worked almost to perfection. Here was a club that needed to be mindful of money, and did it well, with a manager who didn't necessarily want big-name signings but rather ones who would give their all to the cause.

With that mantra, Spurs were held up as a financial model to follow. They had the best wages-to-turnover ratio - a good measure of a club's financial health - in the league, around 39 per cent.

'The numbers and strategies of Spurs are an encouraging sign for the new normal in football,' said Jacco Swart, the Managing Director of the European Leagues Organisation, recently.

But now Mourinho is on board there has been a shift. Matt Doherty, a proven Premier League performer, would not have been signed previously. He is 28 and will have little resale value once his four-year contract is up. The signing of Bale and the numbers involved jar entirely with the existing wage structure and philosophy.

Promising midfielder Oliver Skipp is out on loan, Troy Parrot too (while Spurs struggle once more to find a back up to Harry Kane). Ryan Sessegnon looks like he'll now go out on loan having been one of the most exciting talents in the country during his final season with Fulham. Tanguy Ndombele, still only 23 and perhaps for different reasons, can't get a game.

Tottenham's average starting age for the game against Everton was just shy of 28, the fifth oldest in the league. Going into Pochettino's last full season at the club, they had the third youngest starting XI in the league.

The club is being made in the image of Mourinho, a worrying thought given his propensity to not hang around too long.

Every signing made so far is clearly steered by Mourinho. Doherty, a strong and powerful right-back. Hojbjerg, the midfield agitator and long-lost twin of Nemanja Matic. Joe Hart, more experience than goalkeeper at this point.

'I’m so happy, so happy and thankful for the club to give me the players,' said Mourinho. 'All of them Premier League players with enough experience playing in our league. Then their personalities were something, we tried to go to a certain profile. I always felt the team needed to add a few personalities.'

Is the arrival of Bale another sign that Levy is under Mourinho's spell and will do everything in his power to back his man? Or an acknowledgement that the previous model, while good, just wasn't good enough? Perhaps it's simply a sign that Levy finds a good deal just too irresistible.

Spurs are financing a billion-pound stadium that is currently not allowed to have a single fan walk through the door. They took £175 million from the government to help cope with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spending money with little chance of return seems like a heightened risk, especially at a time where Champions League football has walked out of the door.

From furloughing club staff to finance £250,000 a week in wages in the space of a few months isn't a great look, either. All the more so if the move turns out to be a permanent transfer rather than a loan.

Not that many fans will care about wage structures and revenue ratios, not for now at least.

Since his departure, Bale has spoken glowingly of Spurs; and not just to pay lip service to his former employers as an act of politeness.

'If it wasn't Real Madrid, it would have been very, very difficult to ever leave,' he said in 2015.

'Without Real Madrid, I would have loved to still be playing for Spurs. But winning the Champions League shows exactly why I wanted to make the move. I still want Arsenal to lose and Spurs to win, though.'

Spurs aren't exactly overflowing with modern-day legends but Bale is exactly that; both for his football and his love of the club. He will be welcomed back with open arms and his name sung from all corners.

At 31, he still has plenty to offer on the pitch and as a four-time Champions League winner he fits the profile of personality Mourinho wants at the club; perhaps not the most vocal but someone who has shown he has the ability to play with the best and the attitude to not balk at the challenge of being Ronaldo's long-term replacement at Real Madrid, even if it came with mixed results.

The fact that he is Mr. Right Now rather than Mr. Right doesn't matter for the immediate future.

If blending the existing youth with a sprinkling of experience and character Mourinho desires yields a trophy, then all will be justified. But if the Mourinho experiment goes belly up then Levy's roll of the dice has landed on snake eyes.