José Mourinho has affirmed his belief that Gareth Bale will thrive in his second spell at Tottenham but told fans to expect the forward to contribute in different ways from his first period at the club.
“Seven years is a long, long, long gap,” the manager said. “So which player in the world is the same as he was seven years ago? Sometimes they’re not better or worse, they’re just different players.
“For example you look to [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi, and compare them with seven years ago. They play in different areas, different positions. They transform their qualities to try and explore their qualities in other responsibilities in the tactical system of their teams. I think it happens with the majority of the players, so for sure he is a different player.”
Bale was one of the many Tottenham players who struggled in their 1-0 Europa League defeat against Royal Antwerp on Thursday. In 58 minutes he registered zero shots on target and 24 accurate passes before he was replaced by Harry Kane.
“Every word that I told [on Wednesday] I believe in them because he is working very, very hard,” Mourinho said. “He is improving.”
Tottenham should have a healthy squad for their home game against Brighton on Sunday, with Eric Dier and Tanguy Ndombele returning from injury. Mourinho says his team particularly missed Ndombele on Thursday.
“Tanguy felt just a little sign of fatigue in a muscular area and he was also protected. To be honest we missed him because he gives speed to the team: thinking quick, thinking fast, moving the ball quick and fast. We missed him.”
Mourinho spent much of his first season explaining why Ndombele remained on the bench despite his club-record £55m transfer fee in 2019. He has morphed into a key player in just a few months, starting six competitive games this season. His greater presence speaks to Mourinho’s willingness to promote those who demonstrate their value to him on the pitch. On Thursday in Antwerp, few others did.