Bale set for Tottenham start vs. West Ham, ‘a different player’ than at Real Madrid
Jose Mourinho has said Gareth Bale will “probably” make his second Tottenham debut from the start against West Ham on Sunday after revealing his teammate Sergio Reguilon believes the Wales international is “different player” in north London.
Bale ended a period in exile at Real Madrid by rejoining Spurs on a season-long loan last month, seven years after he left for Spain for a then world-record fee.
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The 31-year-old arrived with a knee problem and has been working his way back to full fitness after missing the latest international break with Wales. Reguilon also joined Tottenham from Madrid in a £25 million move and Mourinho said the left-back believes Bale is reinvigorated by returning to his former home.
“It is great to listen from Serge who shared the dressing room with him in Madrid that he looks a different guy,” Mourinho said. “So if he is happy with us and then he goes home and he can share that happiness with family, it is the best thing that can happen to him. He needs his football, he needs to feel a top player again. All the decisions will be thinking first about the team but never forgetting what is the best for him.
“It is a physical thing. He didn't have any preseason and even in the period after the lockdown, he didn't participate in much with Real Madrid and then he plays a couple of matches with Wales. He had an injury there.
“It is not just about coming in and needing a week of work to be at the level. It is more global than that. We don't want him to be rushed. We want him to feel comfortable, to make the decision of ‘yes I'm ready to go.' It is more about that.
“But he is working so well. It is just evolution in everything, in every data and aspect of his condition. Probably he plays Sunday, if he doesn't he will on Thursday [against LASK in the Europa League].
“Of course he wants to play. He wanted to play since the day he arrived but it was not possible.
“What I can tell you is that he is working every week, probably he is working the way he was not able to do for quite a long time. The last week, especially this week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the planning of the sessions had a big focus on him.
“The Gareth situation is quite special because of his history in the past couple of seasons. We care as much about him as he cares about Tottenham. We are going to make the best decision for him and the team.”
Mourinho confirmed that Harry Kane will start against West Ham, ending a potential disagreement between the Spurs boss and England manager Gareth Southgate over his workload during international duty, while also reserving special praise for Daniel Levy over his handling of the transfer window.
In addition to the arrivals of Reguilon and Bale, Spurs also brought in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton, Carlos Vinicius on an initial loan from Benfica and Joe Hart on a free transfer.
“It is a great opportunity to publicly thank my boss, my board, My Levy, the structure, [head of recruitment] Steve [Hitchen] because what they did for the team was amazing. In such a difficult period where I always believed we were not able to reach some of the targets, the club did an incredible effort.
“Mr. Levy showed once more than when he wants, when he is really involved, he is a genius in the way he makes deals happen and I can only publicly thank them for what they gave to the team.
“Now it is for me, my staff, for the players to answer in a positive way and have a good season.”
Tottenham were still in talks to sign Joe Rodon from Swansea before the EFL transfer deadline closes at 5 p.m. BST on Friday but the two clubs have been some way apart on their respective valuations of the player for several days.
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