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Ruining Maicon in Champions League, wowing teammates in training – How Gareth Bale became a superstar in first spell at Tottenham as Welshman calls time on his career

Ruining Maicon in Champions League, wowing teammates in training – How Gareth Bale became a superstar in first spell at Tottenham as Welshman calls time on his career thumbnail

And just like that, it was all over.

Gareth Bale’s stellar career has come to an end, the Wales legend and former Real Madrid, Tottenham, Southampton and LAFC star announcing his retirement from football on Monday.

Bale signed off his stellar career playing for Wales at the World Cup – Wales’ first finals since 1958

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Bale signed off his stellar career playing for Wales at the World Cup – Wales’ first finals since 1958

Although he has bucket loads of silverware to brag, Bale experienced plenty of ups and downs in his career – the jeers from Real Madrid fans throughout his time at the Bernabeu immediately spring to mind.

One thing no one can deny is that he was a fine player in his first spell at Spurs.

It took time for the Welshman to show just how great he was, though. In his first 24 appearances for Spurs he wasn’t on the winning side.

Harry Redknapp, Spurs’ manager at the time, almost offloaded him to Birmingham in January 2009.

He was a Spurs player when they last won a trophy – the League Cup in 2008 – but didn’t get a winners’ medal.

However, former Arsenal defender Martin Keown credits Redknapp’s treatment of Bale for helping the player become a star.

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Birmingham will be gutted Redknapp didn’t get this deal over the line

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Birmingham will be gutted Redknapp didn’t get this deal over the line

Keown told talkSPORT: “He was a very important player for them, what he did for that football club, the way it took off.

“Harry Redknapp moved him from left-back and right wing and it’s quite phenomenal what he’s done since.”

Bale may have struggled to convince the fans, the media and even opposing teams but his teammates didn’t doubt his ability.

Former Spurs player Clive Allen revealed how when he had brief stints as caretaker boss, the players were in awe at what Bale could do on the training ground.

Bale’s last appearance in his first spell at Spurs came in a pre-season friendly at Swindon

Getty Images – Getty

Bale’s last appearance in his first spell at Spurs came in a pre-season friendly at Swindon

Allen told talkSPORT 2: “I was involved as a coach when Gareth was there and there were days on the training field when his fellow professionals would just go ‘wow, did we just see that? Is that what he can do?’

“And then obviously it was a party to it when we had that most memorable of nights in the San Siro when Gareth just proved to the world what a talent he was with the hat-trick he scored.

“He’s one of those players who is up there with the very best; a fit Gareth Bale can do the things no other player can do. His speed is exceptional, allied with technical ability.”

Darren Bent, Bale’s former Spurs teammate, echoes what Allen says.

Tottenham fans will be eager to see Gareth Bale’s ‘eleven of hearts’ celebration again soon, even though he’ll now wear the No.9 shirt at Spurs

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Tottenham fans will be eager to see Gareth Bale’s ‘eleven of hearts’ celebration again soon, even though he’ll now wear the No.9 shirt at Spurs

Bent told talkSPORT: “He struggled a little bit but we saw the talent. He had the speed, he had a great left foot too.

“He was finding himself, his confidence wasn’t great but then that Champions League match against Inter happened.”

That San Siro match was where Bale really announced himself. Spurs lost the Champions League clash.

This was the match where the football world sat up and took notice of Bale

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This was the match where the football world sat up and took notice of Bale

In October 2010, Spurs found themselves 4-0 down to then-European champions Inter Milan. Not ideal.

Redknapp was fearing more goals would fly into his side’s goal but the lad from Cardiff had other ideas, netting a brilliant hat-trick as Spurs almost completed a spectacular comeback.

Reflecting on that match in 2018, Redknapp told talkSPORT: “Gareth ran them ragged, you feel if we had another ten minutes we would’ve got at least a draw because they were absolutely gone.”

Spurs met Inter at White Hart Lane in the return group match. Bale played even better.

That match has been dubbed the night that finished former Inter right-back Maicon’s career as Bale beat the Brazilian time and again to help Spurs win 3-1.

Redknapp added: “He absolutely destroyed them, didn’t he? Maicon was supposed to be the best right-back in the world at the time.

“When Gareth got the ball, Maicon must have been like ‘oh no, here we go again!’ It was unbelievable.”

Almost overnight, Bale became a superstar and interest in him soon developed. Jose Mourinho recently revealed that he tried to sign Bale when in charge of Real Madrid

Mourinho said: “I tried to sign him for Real Madrid which was not possible to do during my time there but the president followed my instinct and followed my knowledge. There is no secret on that. I think even Gareth knows that.”

Bale arguably played his best football in his career in the 2012/13 season, which saw him move into the No.10 role.

Bale has completed an emotional return to Tottenham Hotspur

Getty Images – Getty

Bale has completed an emotional return to Tottenham Hotspur

He earned a stream of compliments from Spurs’ then-manager Andre Villas-Boas but arguably the best he received came after a stunning hat-trick at Aston Villa in December 2012.

Villas-Boas said: “He’s up there with the best. He’s showing tremendous skills and talent. I think he’s improving every game. You recognise he is one of our major assets, for sure.

“His left foot is wonderful and the power and direction he applies on the ball is wonderful too.”

Bale’s first child, Alba Violet, even has the same initials as Villas-Boas

But perhaps the best way to sum up what Bale was like at Spurs first time around is to consult someone who played with him for many years.

Speaking to talkSPORT, former Spurs defender Michael Dawson, simply said: “I count myself lucky to have played with him over so many years.”

Spurs fans got to see their hero once more when Bale joined the club on loan in the 2020/21 season.

He didn’t make the same impact as he did during the latter years of his first spell but it gave any Spurs fan still smarting from his departure to Real Madrid the closure they needed.

Happy retirement, Gareth!

Bale’s brilliance at Spurs will forever be remembered by fans

Getty Images

Bale’s brilliance at Spurs will forever be remembered by fans

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