LONDON • Gareth Bale arrived at Luton Airport near London yesterday, ahead of completing his imminent return to Tottenham Hotspur.
The Wales forward, who left Premier League club Spurs to join Real Madrid for a then-world record €100 million (S$161 million) in 2013, was expected to be unveiled yesterday.
Sky Sports footage showed him stepping off a private jet owned by Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
Real Madrid left-back Sergio Reguilon was also on the plane and is also set to join the London club.
Bale, 31, is expected to join initially on loan. He originally joined Tottenham from Southampton in 2007 and, after struggling initially, evolved into one of the club’s greatest players. He scored 56 goals and provided 58 assists in more than 200 appearances. After joining Real, he won four Champions League and two La Liga titles, but has fallen out of favour with coach Zinedine Zidane.
With Spurs new signing Matt Doherty, a right-back, and Reguilon arriving this season, manager Jose Mourinho could opt to play a wing-back formation which could bring out the best in Bale.
The idea could be that when the wing-backs advance to join the attack, Bale and South Korean forward Son Heung-min, two potent scorers, would then be able to get closer to Harry Kane to ease to the striker’s scoring load.
Bale operates in this formation well, as while he is still a threat getting by his markers on the outside, his main weapon now is to cut inside on his left foot.
While Doherty provides the width on the right, Mourinho would be able to use Bale as an inside forward, rather than an outside right. According to Sky Sports, Bale found the net when cutting into the zone no fewer than nine times from outside the penalty box in his most recent season as a Premier League player. Nobody has come close to that number since.
Mourinho may also be wary of Bale’s off-pitch issues.
First, Spurs must get him back to full match fitness after he scarcely played for Real in recent months.
But the more pressing problem would be his ambitions.
Just last year, there were reports that he was leaving Real to join Chinese club Jiangsu Suning on a three-year deal that would see him earn £1 million (S$1.75 million) a week, suggesting that he wants an easy pay day.
Separately, Liverpool have completed the signing of Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara on a four-year deal worth an initial £20 million, with £5 million in add-ons. He becomes the club’s second signing of the transfer window after Kostas Tsimikas.
“I think it’s an amazing feeling. I was waiting for this moment for a long time and I am very, very happy to be here,” said the Spaniard, 29.
He spent seven seasons with Bayern and played in last season’s Champions League final victory over Paris Saint-Germain.