Gareth Bale joins Tottenham: 'For Jose Mourinho the stakes are sky high'

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho's handling of his players has been visible for all to see in Amazon Prime's 'All or Nothing' documentary

Jose Mourinho has turned the clock back in an attempt to get his Tottenham Hotspur tenure moving into the future with Gareth Bale returning to the club he left in 2013.

This is a crucial moment in Bale's career as he comes out of exile after what many regard as a mystifying fall from grace at the Bernabeu for someone who played a pivotal role in four Champions League wins.

The Wales forward has been derided in Spain of late as more golfer than footballer after being totally marginalised by coach Zinedine Zidane.

Yet in the context of his unremarkable spell at Spurs so far, it is an even more important moment for Mourinho as he struggles to convince many of the club's fans he is any sort of upgrade on Mauricio Pochettino and finds himself facing accusations that too many of his methods belong in the past just one game into the Premier League season.

To answer those questions he has reached to the past to bring Bale back to Spurs, finally working with the man he tried to sign during his three-year spell at Real Madrid and also when he was Manchester United manager.

Bale needs this to work to ensure memories such as the 'Taxi For Maicon' night in the Champions League at White Hart Lane in 2010 - when he destroyed Inter Milan's Brazil right-back in Spurs' 3-1 win - are not dulled in any way by a second spell.

Gareth Bale on a Times Square billboard
Bale became a global superstar during his first spell at Tottenham

Mourinho needs it to work even more though. And he needs it to work fairly quickly.

It is hardly make-or-break time for a manager who has only been at Spurs since November, but the abject performance in the home defeat by Everton on the opening weekend of the season appears to have prompted a bout of soul-searching - and indeed wallet searching by chairman Daniel Levy.

Spurs and Mourinho appear to have taken a long, hard look in the mirror after Sunday and decided Bale is the answer to their malaise.

This is a deal that seems to tick a lot of boxes. A world-class player returns to the scene of former glories to reboot his career while being paraded as a PR and footballing coup, a statement of ambition, and a symbol of the pulling power of a manager still treated with suspicion by many supporters.

Look, Jose can still lure the 'Galacticos'.

For Mourinho, it is a chance to prove he can work with, and motivate, the big players.

What's not to like?

It certainly feels as if Spurs need to do something. Despite Mourinho's combative words in the 'All or Nothing' Amazon documentary, Sunday's loss to Everton represented more 'Nothing' than 'All'. Spurs were awful, Mourinho seemingly powerless to alter the course of events.

Jose Mourinho
Is Bale the player to bring joy back to Tottenham, their manager and the club's fans?

The Portuguese afterwards carped about poor fitness and "lazy pressing" from his players, who looked light years away from Everton's sharpness under Carlo Ancelotti, while Dele Alli suffered the ignominy of being hooked at half-time.

His spiky post-match demeanour set alarm bells ringing more loudly given Mourinho's previous when it started to go wrong at Chelsea and, particularly, at Manchester United.

'The Special One' has taken a few hits in recent times but he has previously shown he can work with the game's major talents and personalities, as he did with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United and Inter Milan.

Now he must do the same with 31-year-old Bale. If he gets a tune out of him then it will immediately make for happier times for Spurs and make the manager's life much more comfortable.

He does at least have an admirer in Bale, who said after he replaced Pochettino: "Having Mourinho there is an amazing statement from the club. I think he is a serial winner."

The feeling will be mutual if Bale can rekindle those old memories and dispel the pessimism that already hangs over Spurs and their manager just a week into the new Premier League season.

It is also a serious financial investment by Levy, a move that will gain favour with the fans but will land on Mourinho's desk if it does not work. Levy likes such major shows of faith to come off.

The stakes, for Mourinho in particular, are sky high.

If Bale is a success it could mean lift-off for both the mood around Spurs but more significantly for Mourinho.

His arrival will add even more threat to an attack already boasting Harry Kane and Son Heung-min and perhaps even erase suggestions the manager is not just a win-at-all-costs pragmatist but can produce the attractive quality (without trophies admittedly) delivered by his predecessor.

If it does not work, Spurs' manager could find himself swimming against the tide as their rivals invest wisely and look to be on an upward trajectory.

If he cannot make an effective attack out of Bale, Kane and Son then many will wonder, with some justification, whether the old magic has been lost forever.

In Mourinho's defence, the decline of Spurs started after the Champions League final loss to Liverpool in June 2019, with the team spluttering into the following season in a manner that led to the disaffected Pochettino being sacked.

Mourinho's summer signings had been astute rather than spectacular in the shape of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton and Matt Doherty from Wolves.

Bale, in contrast, is box office - a signing that increases excitement but also expectation.

While it brings with it risk for Mourinho, there are patently great potential rewards.

Mourinho will be convinced he can bring the best out of Bale, who will relish the chance of a fresh start with a new manager and get his glittering career back on track.

Bale, for all the resentment towards the end of his time at Real, has been a huge success at the Bernabeu, making decisive contributions to two of the four Champions League victories.

He was pivotal against Atletico Madrid in 2014 then scored twice against Liverpool five years later, the first of which was the famous overhead kick that is one of the great goals of any final.

If Mourinho can flick that switch once more, with Bale back in surroundings where he will be worshipped rather than treated with suspicion, this deal could be the catalyst for what has so far been an underwhelming time for 'The Special One'.

Bale needs this. Mourinho needs it more.

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