Gareth Bale is a fiddly shape to fit into a jigsaw and that has nothing to do with his formidable pony-tail. Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane barely bothered even to try. But Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho hopes that the Wales international can fit perfectly into his Spurs squad and turn them finally into trophy winners.
The last time he was at the club it worked because every piece of the jigsaw was put in around Bale.
In his last remarkable season, it was almost as though the rest of the team knew that provided he was at the heart of the picture, everything would fall into place around him.
But these days there is Harry Kane to consider. That is the million dollar question – or at the very least the one which will decide whether several hundreds of thousands of pounds a week is worth it.
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The pair have played together before. For 12 minutes spread over two games – PAOK Salonika and Newcastle – both of which Spurs lost.
That was a Kane who was finding his feet in the game, while Bale was busy showing his most dangerous position for Spurs was down the middle having finally migrated there from left-back via the left wing.
Undoubtedly Kane could do with the service Bale could provide from the flanks, but Jose Mourinho prefers a much narrower focus to his attack.
And as Zidane has suspected all along, Bale is not a classic No 10 in the way that Christian Eriksen – the man bought with Bale’s transfer money – developed into so successfully in Tottenham colours.
Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura already provide the sort of direct threat Bale possesses when running at players and the signing of the 31-year-old would put a massive boulder in the path of Dele Alli.
The man who so recently was seen as the future of Tottenham baulked by a figure from the past.
Of course, he could yet find himself part of the whole package – a devilment Sir Alex Ferguson once commended to Mourinho at Manchester United instead given chance to come good away from the focus of the English game.
Mourinho made no apology on Wednesday for hauling him off at half-time against Everton for a tactical switch which did not even pay off.
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“Dele’s a very polite guy, very calm,” Mourinho said. “I think he’s a bit introspective. When you think a lot about things, so I think the way he reacted was Dele.
“Was quiet, was sad but in the end after the game he was just one of many. But again, I repeat, he’s a good boy, a really good boy.”
Even when he was still at MK Dons, he seemed to carry with him a certain sensitivity papered over by some of the more brash headlines in the press. A move to the Bernabeu could be the making of him – or the breaking.
Sources at the club insist that Alli is going nowhere and that his absence from the trip to Bulgaria has nothing to do with the speculation.
But given Mourinho’s determined character reference, Alli does look increasingly like the piece the Tottenham manager might need to be removed completely from the picture to make that final Bale piece fit.
Mourinho for Bale’s dream move to Spain in the first place, or at least that was the impression the Spurs manager left at his press conference as the player’s agent Jonathan Barnett was telling reporters, “Gareth is closer to leaving Madrid than at any time in the last seven years.
“We are still negotiating – we shall see how it goes.”
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Until negotiations are completed over a deal – either loan or permanent – Mourinho was adamant he could not talk about Bale.
Although he did say somewhat philosophically: “A squad is a puzzle. When a new signing completes the puzzle it’s great for the team.”
Four times during the press conference to preview the Europa League second qualifying round clash with Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Mourinho said he would not talk about another team’s player.
Once he even refused to comment on the transfer market as a whole and finally ended with the mantra: “It’s better not to speak.”
But that did not stop him from squeezing in one subtle message to Bale that the Wales international does have plenty to thank him for.
When asked about trying to sign Bale for Manchester United, Mourinho said: “ Even before that, I tried to sign him for Real Madrid, which was not possible to do during my time there.
“But the president followed my instinct and followed my knowledge and the season I left he brought Gareth to the club.
“There is no secret on that. Even Gareth knows that.”
Bale’s Real team-mate Sergio Reguilon did fly into Tottenham to undergo a medical, however, with Tottenham looking to sign up the left-back as soon as possible with fixtures coming thick and fast.
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