Tottenham fans were filled with excitement on Thursday night, as Gareth Bale made his first start for them since rejoining in the summer on loan from Real Madrid.
Bale got 62 minutes under his belt in Spurs’ routine 3-0 victory over Austrian side LASK in the Europa League group stages.
The 31-year-old wasn’t quite at his blistering best in the match as he continues to get up to full speed, but his low cross into the penalty box was prodded in by defender Andres Andrade for an own goal.
He is an electric right-winger that is at his very best when he’s running defenders with pace and he can be so dangerous cutting inside to his favoured left foot, but everyone recognises he’s had a lack of game-time recently at Madrid and it was never going to be automatic success following his return to English football.
Pundit and ex-Arsenal defender Keown was left encouraged by Bale’s midweek contribution, claiming that he still has the ability and needs the fitness alongside it.
“You can see that it’s there under the bonnet but he’s just getting fit and they are managing his minutes really well,” Keown told BT Sport 2 (10:40pm, 22 October).
“He’s a special player, very athletic so fitness is key to him. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him at his best probably a couple of years. He’s still got it there, he just needs to get fitter.”
There is so much pressure on Bale to recapture the kind of form he showed when he left Spurs back in 2013, but he’s a different kind of player now.
The Wales international is fortunate that the North London club are scoring goals for fun right now, which is why there isn’t any pressure on manager Jose Mourinho to overuse him and he can gradually be slotted in.
Spurs have a few days to recover before Monday’s trip to Burnley in the Premier League and Bale will be hoping to get some more minutes under his belt, but it looks like the Europa League could be a great competition for him in the next couple of weeks.