Gareth Bale returns to give Spurs another kick-start a decade on from putting the whole project in motion

Now, after a tough 18 months, albeit with a Champions League final appearance in there, the responsibility falls to Bale once more to give them another kick-start having set the whole project in motion all those years ago. He returns a bigger player if not a better one, and thus with greater expectations.

This time, however, it is not presumed to be Bale or bust. Kane and Son have already tallied nine goals and seven assists between them and Jose Mourinho’s system is beginning to look less like a straight-jacket.

Also, Bale’s involvement is likely to be limited at first: he arrived with a knee injury and has seen limited action over the last 12 months. And when you consider the wages Spurs might have to front up to make this loan move permanent, this “homecoming” may only be temporary. Thus, any influence he may have on the field will be short and sweet.

Indeed, it may be off the field where, for now, Bale’s impact will be most pronounced. Not just in the eyes of those who may still have his poster on their walls, but also among this first-team. With an average age of 26.6, most of the squad would have been in their early teens when Bale began taking his most purposeful steps to stardom.

The first week of November will mark a decade since he scored that hat-trick at the San Siro against Inter Milan, before treating Maicon with utter disdain in the corresponding group fixture at White Hart Lane. It was six years ago he settled a Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona, taking the long way around Marc Bartra with a supersonic 70-yard dash on 85-minutes. The outrageous overhead kick against Liverpool in the Champions League final was the summer of 2018.

These moments were being replayed on televisions throughout the training ground, as Sky Sports News celebrated the news of Bale’s re-signing with a dip into his archives. Flashes of that same brilliance have already made appearances in training. Those around during that first stint are all too familiar with some of the stunned look on his new teammates’ faces. Ryan Mason is one of the few who was there during that first stint still at the club.

“What separates the good players from the greats people will remember is consistency,” Mason tells The Independent. “The thing with Gareth was that those brilliant moments, he’d do them all the time in training. That winner against West Ham away? He must have scored more or less that same goal about 20 times on the training pitch. The goal at home to Southampton, where he gets the ball on the right, cuts in about 30 yards and finishes in the corner. He did those kinds of goals on a regular basis.”

He’s done what he’s done in the game, but he’s still himself. He’s not changed one bit

Mason, now head of player development at Tottenham, was on the books at Spurs from the age of eight before he moved on in 2016. During Bale’s purple patch, he was a consistent presence around the first-team squad. As it happens, his lack of game time during this period meant he spent more time jostling with Bale on the training ground rather than reaping the benefits of playing alongside him. Like those now under his care, Mason admits he also used to get left wide-eyed by the Welshman.

“It’s one of those for me as a player during the latter stages of his first spell, you kind of watch him and appreciate what he is doing. You just found yourself admiring the player.

“You’ve seen what he can do in Champions League finals. If he’s proving that on the biggest stage, you can only imagine what he used to do in five- and seven-a-side games in training. When you are around someone like that, it inspires you to raise your game. Right there in front of you is an example of what a really good player looks like. If it doesn’t inspire you, why are you playing football?!”

The day after he signed, Mason bumped into Bale and the pair reminisced about old times. There is only two years between them and life – specifically, kids – has happened at the same pace even with both on different paths.

“He was as he was before he left. You think, he’s come back with Champions Leagues and La Liga titles under his belt. But he’s still the same humble guy.” Bale, for instance, still rocks up in his Adidas tracksuit, a regular source of amusement during his first chapter that he has carried over into the second.

“I think maybe that might be the biggest thing younger lads at the club can learn from him. That players get to that level because they don’t let stuff get to their head.

“He’s done what he’s done in the game, but he’s still himself. He’s not changed one bit.” Perhaps that last bit is something to hold dear.

The Premier League is very different from what it was seven years ago, and the world a different proposition to seven months ago. And over the international break, the first round of a power struggle around the game’s future has created a further disconnect between supporters and the game. Maybe Bale’s return could be a throwback to a different time, of a player whose brilliance cut through the white noise.

Wishful thinking, sure. But amid the turbulence of British football and life, the return of one of its best is worth getting giddy over.

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