In Sheffield United’s in-house coverage of their 4-0 defeat to Tottenham, Gareth Bale is described as ‘one of the best players on the planet.’
I’ll admit it, I scoffed at that. And then I watched the highlights.
And now I’ll be writing a formal apology to the SUTV commentary team, because clearly, they know more than me.
In January, it would have been difficult to imagine Bale playing any part at Tottenham beyond the end of this season, given how little he featured in the first half of the campaign. Jose Mourinho was bemused with his contributions in training, and a couple of niggling injuries limited him to one Premier League start in 20 games.
Slowly but surely though, he has begun to prove his worth in his second spell in north London.
Braces against Burnley and Crystal Palace earned him a more prominent role in the side during the early months of 2021, and Ryan Mason seems convinced that he is a far more valuable player than Mourinho thought.
But Sunday took things to another level for the Welshman, as he left us in no doubt that the Bale who made his name at White Hart Lane is still in there.
Spurs boast an embarrassment of riches in the final third, but Bale stood head and shoulders above all of them as he took Sheffield United apart. His pace and directness on the break blew the hosts away, and his finishing…Jesus Christ, his finishing.
He’d wrapped his treble up before the clock struck 70 and every single one of his goals was beautiful.
His first, a gorgeous dink beyond Aaron Ramsdale with the outside of his left boot.
His second, outrunning the entire Blades back line before rasping one high past the despairing keeper.
And his third, a low, left-footed drive from the edge of the box that even Iker Casillas in his heyday wouldn’t have sniffed.
It was one of the best hat-tricks you’re ever likely to see, and it leaves you wondering if there is a place for Bale at a rebuilding Tottenham next season.
He said previously that he plans to return to Real Madrid, but later admitted that was simply the agreement of the initial loan and not indicative of what he wants. Crucially, those quotes also came before the sacking of Mourinho and the interim appointment of Mason – whose management Bale is clearly enjoying.
A revival of his career in Madrid looks highly unlikely, so why wouldn’t he want to stay at Tottenham, where he is finally back playing some of his best football?
He represents a bastion of familiarity that could help ease the transition into a new era, and that is now being matches with a run of form that is simply too hot to ignore.
He’s scored eight goals in his last six league starts, and if Real Madrid are willing to sell – which they likely will be – then it would be self-destructive not to pursue a deal.
‘One of the best players on the planet’ might be pushing it a little, but if Bale’s form keeps up, he won’t be far from the conversation again. It’s down to Tottenham to ensure he continues his revival in north London.