Monday 1 March 2021 12:04 pm

Gareth Bale is back for Tottenham - so is this another Jose Mourinho managerial masterstroke?

Just a few weeks ago, Jose Mourinho did not want to talk about Gareth Bale.

On 4 February, he sniped at a reporter for asking why Bale was left on the Tottenham bench during a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea. Eight days later, Mourinho publicly rebuked him for implying, via social media, that he was fit and itching to play.

Now Mourinho has no choice but to talk about him; Bale is the name on everyone’s lips.

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The Welshman has been sensational in recent games, culminating in yesterday’s display against Burnley.

In his last four appearances, he has scored four times and assisted three more. 

Most of the goals have been outstanding, from the pair he scored against Wolfsberger in the Europa League to his second at the weekend.

Bale isn’t just finding the net again; he is finding a corner of side-netting off limits for any goalkeeper and threatening to remove it from the goal frame with the force of his shot.

He is showing glimpses of the player who persuaded Real Madrid to pay Spurs a world record fee in 2013. 

And it’s one of the most exciting sights in English football.

Bale’s revival has certainly come at a convenient time for Tottenham, who had lost five of their last six in the Premier League before Sunday. 

Who deserves credit for Gareth Bale revival?

It has also dug Mourinho out of a hole. Without much in the way of encouraging performances to fall back on, a downturn in results left him exposed.

Just 15 months into the job, talk was of a downward spiral and replacements such as Julian Nagelsmann were being touted.

Recent results, albeit against limited opposition, have given the situation an altogether sunnier complexion.

Six points off the top four but with a game in hand, Champions League qualification feels like a realistic target again.

So is Bale’s renaissance a Mourinho masterstroke? 

Did his reluctance to select him inspire the improved performances of late, in the same way that some tough love has coaxed better form from Tanguy Ndombele?

No doubt, Mourinho would like us to think so. 

But for every Ndombele there is a Dele Alli or a Luke Shaw; players who have shown their best under a different type of management and wilted under Mourinho’s critical glare.

Bale’s revival has come immediately after Mourinho bristled at his Instagram activity.

Perhaps the dressing down was the kick up the backside he needed. Or perhaps he wasn’t that short of fitness after all. 

Perhaps Bale forced his manager’s hand and has grabbed the opportunity.

Speaking after the win over Burnley, Mourinho suggested Bale’s improvement was connected to being happier now.

“I’ve been happy all season,” Bale retorted with that wide grin. “I’m happy and I’m sure that now shows on the pitch.”

Thanks boss, it wasn’t. Until we hear Bale praise Mourinho for his handling of this affair, the rest of us ought to refrain too.

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