Bale’s Spurs return goes sour

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Gareth Bale faces a fight to salvage his tarnished reputation after the Tottenham forward’s failure to live up to the hype surrounding his Premier League return.

When Bale rejoined Tottenham on loan from Real Madrid in September, the emotional homecoming was hailed as a perfect fit for the player and the club where he rose to global stardom.

But just five months later, Bale has flopped so badly, amid a rift with Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho, that it is almost impossible to imagine the Wales captain’s spell in north London being extended beyond this season.

The 31-year-old looks a disinterested figure in his increasingly rare appearances for Mourinho’s side.

The dazzling form that persuaded Real to pay a then world record £85 million ($118 million) to sign him from Tottenham in 2013 is now a distant memory.

Although Bale’s move to Madrid went sour some while ago, there was a perception he was the victim of a personality clash with Real manager Zinedine Zidane rather than a player past his best.

Despite winning the Champions League four times with Madrid — scoring in two finals — and lifting the La Liga crown twice, Bale’s face never quite fit at the Bernabeu.

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The flag bearing the slogan ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid’ that Bale memorably brandished after helping his country qualify for Euro 2020 was perceived as a swipe at the Spanish club over his lack of playing time.

But, judging by his lacklustre displays for Tottenham, perhaps it said more about where club football lies in Bale’s priorities.

While his passion for Wales still appears to burn brightly, Bale’s complacent attitude to the teams that pay his reported £600,000 per-week wages — Tottenham and Real are sharing the cost — suggests a dulled appetite for the hard work required to succeed at the highest level.