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Gareth Bale may not have electric pace of a decade ago but he can still be a threat for Tottenham

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gareth bale may not have electric pace of a decade ago but he can still be a threat for tottenham

The tell-tale signs were there, even as Gareth Bale drifted further into the shadows.

Even as skies darkened over his career at Real Madrid, a reminder that the fire still burned.

Last summer, as Spanish football emerged from shutdown, Zinedine Zidane tested his players’ speed, their strength, their readiness to secure LaLiga glory.  

Gareth Bale could make his long awaited Tottenham return against West Ham on Sunday

Gareth Bale could make his long awaited Tottenham return against West Ham on Sunday

The 31-year-old is back in training after recovering from a knee injury and is building up fitness

The 31-year-old is back in training after recovering from a knee injury and is building up fitness

Bale, it’s said, ended top of the class. And yet over Real’s final 12 matches, Zidane used the 31-year-old only once.

It was the surest sign of bridges burnt but evidence, too, that Bale’s weapons still fired. This weekend against West Ham, Bale can prove just how much gunpowder remains.

His second coming for Tottenham arrives more than seven years since his last Premier League appearance and almost a decade to the day since one night in Milan catapulted Bale towards superstardom.

Against Inter in 2010, a stunning hat-trick put him on course for the Bernabeu.

But amid all the nostalgia, questions remain: does that Gareth Bale still exist? Or, at 31, has his threat shrunk with his golf handicap?

In recent days, Tottenham have provided the odd teaser.

Bale has been working towards match sharpness following knee trouble and social media has seen flashes of those pumping legs and that left foot. 

He proved his weapons still fired after topping Real Madrid's fitness tests following lockdown

He proved his weapons still fired after topping Real Madrid’s fitness tests following lockdown

Some things never change – even during training in his early Tottenham days, Bale offered glimpses of what could lie ahead.

‘There were things he did… where Luka Modric would turn and (be) like: “Wow, did we just see that?”,’ former assistant coach Clive Allen tells Sportsmail.

‘They were aware very quickly he could do things that no one else could.’

For a time, they remained only ‘glimpses’. And then Tottenham found themselves en route to a Champions League pasting at the San Siro – four goals and a man down at half-time.

‘It was going to take a phenomenal effort just to get out of there without really being embarrassed,’ Allen says. ‘Harry (Redknapp) spoke to the group and that was the message: we basically had to save face, really… and, pwoarh, Gareth just came alive.’

On 52 minutes, Bale soared clear from inside his own half before scoring from a tight angle. In stoppage time another break, another rocket finish. A minute later, his third came with a fine first-time shot. The pace, power and precise finishing was frightening.

‘This was the night he came of age,’ Allen remembers.

Spurs left empty-handed but Bale’s star had set sail. He tortured Maicon again in the return fixture as hours of hidden graft finally bore fruit.

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The Wales captain came of age in a scintillating performance against Inter Milan back in 2010

‘He became a phenomenal athlete… he put a lot of work in and that took time to take effect,’ Allen says.

Sportsmail columnist Micah Richards recalls ‘eating Bale for lunch’ during his Southampton days, only for Bale to ‘destroy’ him a few seasons later.

‘He (became) a different person, a different shape, a totally different sportsman,’ former Liverpool defender Glen Johnson remembers.

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And with confidence came consistency. In two seasons before Real came calling, Bale amassed 30 goals and 14 assists, with Andre Villas-Boas claiming his decision to shift Bale inside to a free role also ‘unlocked’ his potential and helped his career ‘explode’.

Then, after Madrid paid a world-record fee for him in 2013, Bale was usually deployed to the right of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Fifteen major trophies followed but his face never quite fit.

He failed to win over the fans or Spanish press.

‘They expect Galacticos to do everything – me being me and not wanting to do those things, that’s maybe why they didn’t like me so much,’ Bale recently admitted.

Neither he nor David Beckham spoke much Spanish. But the view there is that Becks played the game, befriending the likes of Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos. Bale lived more on the periphery – and on the golf course. 

‘I’m very quiet,’ he said. ‘(I) keep myself away from the cameras.’

But that became more difficult as relations with Zidane grew more strained.

It’s claimed the Real boss believes all players should be equal; Bale wanted different (if not special) treatment.

Bale won 15 major trophies at Real Madrid but was criticised for remaining in the shadows

Bale won 15 major trophies at Real Madrid but was criticised for remaining in the shadows

An example: after so many injuries, the winger has a trusted recovery process but Zidane preferred the team to recuperate together.

Their disagreements never escalated and nor did they preclude Bale from evolving into a superstar.

In 2017-18, the final season of Zidane’s first spell, Bale’s bicycle kick in Kiev capped an incredible campaign.

Analysis by Analytics FC show he was one of the world’s most dangerous forwards: even if his explosive pace had begun to wane, his powers had shifted. Beyond Bale’s 21 goals, there were few better at finding space or delivering killer balls. He was particularly devastating in a front two, or when getting into the box from the right flank.

Having Ronaldo on the opposite wing proved a blessing and a curse. Bale had the perfect foil but he was no longer his team’s talisman.

Even after his departure, Ronaldo’s shadow loomed large. Bale was criticised for not filling the void and Real remained lopsided, channelling attacks down the left. 

The result? By the time he returned to Spurs, Bale was scoring less, creating fewer chances, dribbling less often and with less success.

Statistics tell only half the story, though. How many players shine when their game time is so limited, their future so uncertain?

The forward is an ideal fit for Tottenham's right side alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-min

The forward is an ideal fit for Tottenham’s right side alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-min

‘When you’re not happy it’s difficult to play at your highest level,’ Bale recently told Sky. Now, back at Spurs, the ‘buzz’ has returned.

‘I feel energised again,’ he added. ‘That always leads to good performances normally.’

More crucial still? As Bale edged beyond 30, he has adapted.

‘I’m not the 20-year-old that sprints 90 yards down the touchline every two seconds,’ he said.

‘When you get older, you realise you have to manage yourself a little bit more and pick the right moments.’

Certainly, Analytics FC found Bale still rivals the likes of Kylian Mbappe as a running threat. Only now he is more savvy with his positioning and shooting.

Some in Spain, meanwhile, feel Bale’s game intelligence went unappreciated.

Even early last season, Zidane tended to pick the Welshman for tricky away games owing, it’s claimed, to his defensive discipline.

‘When you’re younger you just want to impress, to go 100 per cent all the time,’ Bale said. ‘When you get older you have the experience to manage yourself, manage the game.’

Johnson agrees. ‘No one is the same player at 30,’ he says. ‘(Bale) has developed… it’s almost like what (Ryan) Giggs did. Giggs played for another two or three years and didn’t run past anyone but he played a fantastic role a bit deeper.’

Then there are the inevitable gains of spending seven years alongside the world’s best.

Spurs have not won any silverware since Bale left and Mourinho will need winners to end that

Spurs have not won any silverware since Bale left and Mourinho will need winners to end that

All of which begs the question, what will Bale 2.0 offer back in lilywhite?

Hugo Lloris is the sole survivor from his last Premier League appearance but still they appear a good match.

Alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, the 31-year-old seems an ideal fit for Mourinho’s right side – less the careering winger, more a potent threat from inside the box.

Analytics FC data suggest Kane’s recent glut of assists is no fluke – the Spurs captain is one of Europe’s most threatening playmakers.

Now it’s up to Mourinho to mould a frontline akin to Liverpool’s – pacey wide forwards knitted together by a creative No 9.

Bale’s biggest weapon, however, may be his know-how. Spurs have not picked up silverware since he left and Mourinho will need winners to end that drought.

Injury will be his greatest concern – Bale has already missed 33 games since the start of 2018-19. But should he stay fit, statistics and sense suggest the 31-year-old can still terrorise defences. The Bale of the San Siro has become a more measured, versatile and mature talent – hardened by age and experience.

‘I still believe I have a lot to offer,’ he recently insisted. ‘I wouldn’t be here otherwise… time will tell.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Ryan Garcia called out by pregnant girlfriend after allegedly kissing TikTok star Malu Trevejo

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ryan garcia called out by pregnant girlfriend after allegedly kissing tiktok star malu trevejo

RYAN GARCIA has been labelled a “piece of s***” by his pregnant girlfriend after he was caught kissing another woman.

The unbeaten lightweight boxer was seen kissing TikTok star Malu Trevejo outside of a restaurant in Los Angeles.

Ryan Garcia was seen kissing TikTok star Malu Trevejo

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Ryan Garcia was seen kissing TikTok star Malu Trevejo
Ryan Garcia allegedly told girlfriend Drea Celina that he was busy training for his next fight

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Ryan Garcia allegedly told girlfriend Drea Celina that he was busy training for his next fight

Garcia’s girlfriend Drea Celina is due to give birth to his second child in just seven weeks.

But Garcia, 22, was filmed with Malu during a night out with friends.

It is understood that the incident happened on October 24 outside of the trendy N10 Restaurant – owned by Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero.

The viral video shows boxing phenomenon Garcia leaving the building with the social media star, who turned 18 this month.

Garcia and Malu are seen kissing and hugging each other in front of onlookers.

After the shocking footage went viral, his girlfriend shared a statement to her social media page.

Drea, who has since made her Instagram account private, wrote: “Meanwhile, I go visit my family he tells me he’s training hard for this fight.

“But IG SHOWS ME THIS.

The pair enjoyed an intimate moment together outside of the restaurant

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The pair enjoyed an intimate moment together outside of the restaurant
Malu Trevejo has racked up 8.5million followers on her Instagram page

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Malu Trevejo has racked up 8.5million followers on her Instagram page
TikTok star Malu Trevejo turned 18 this month

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TikTok star Malu Trevejo turned 18 this month

“Seven weeks left until I give birth and this piece of s*** stay being disgusting.

“While he barely even sees Rylie his daughter with @catherinegamez…

“@kingryang is a HORRIBLE EVIL HUMAN.”

According to a report shared by HITC, Garcia responded with his own statement.

It read: “Just clearing some things I seen regarding Malu and Drea.

“Andrea and I aren’t engaged but we were still trying to fix our relationship.

“Malu and I went there as friends and we got caught up in the moment but there isn’t anything there, I didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

“This is my personal life and I’m not going to speak on this ever again.”

Ryan Garcia's girlfriend shared this statement to her Instagram story

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Ryan Garcia’s girlfriend shared this statement to her Instagram story
Ryan Garcia boasts a perfect boxing record of 20-0

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Ryan Garcia boasts a perfect boxing record of 20-0Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Garcia’s first child, with former flame Catherine Gamez, was born in March 2019.

Malu, who has 8.5million Instagram followers, has also given her side of the story.

She said: “I met up with him because he was a very nice guy, he was very sweet.

“Yeah he told he had a kid, but he never told me that he was engaged and he never told me that he had another baby coming.

“But he’s a really nice dude and I didn’t know that.

“Let’s just not get into that. I just woke up and I’m seeing all this s***.

“Did not know he was engaged and I texted him and ask him why he didn’t tell me and he said because they’re on and off.”

Garcia is preparing for his return to the ring on December 5 when he will face Luke Campbell for the WBC’s interim title.

The American has an incredible record of 20-0 including 17 knockouts so far.

JH BOXING TABLE v2
UFC legend Micael Bisping blasts ’embarrassing’ video of Ryan Garcia confronting YouTuber Jake Paul with fight contract

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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Marcus Rashford reveals impressive muscles as he launches Nike underwear line

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marcus rashford reveals impressive muscles as he launches nike underwear line scaled

KIDS’ food champion Marcus Rashford shows he’s a bit of a beefcake himself as he launches Nike’s latest underwear line.

The Man United and England forward took a break from campaigning for free holiday meals for poorer schoolchildren to share this snap on Instagram.

Marcus Rashford revealed his impressive muscles in a pair of red Nike underwear

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Marcus Rashford revealed his impressive muscles in a pair of red Nike underwearCredit: S Goodwin 2019
The footballer showed off his enviable physique as he launched Nike’s latest underwear line

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The footballer showed off his enviable physique as he launched Nike’s latest underwear lineCredit: S Goodwin 2019

The busy 22-year-old has a lot on his plate.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the footballer is set to miss out on a BBC Sports Personality of the Year nomination, despite his remarkable charity work.

Rashford is odds-on favourite with the bookies for the award after earning plaudits for his tireless campaigning for disadvantaged children to receive free meals during school holidays.

But the reports claim the star is likely to be overlooked as the Beeb’s guidelines state only ‘sporting achievements’ can be considered – despite the name of the award.

The kids’ food champion wowed in a pair of black boxers covered in the Nike logo

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The kids’ food champion wowed in a pair of black boxers covered in the Nike logoCredit: S Goodwin 2019

That would leave Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton a strong contender after the Mercedes ace beat Michael Schumacher’s long-standing wins record at the Portuguese GP.

Rashford forced the Government into a U-turn over the summer holidays after fighting for the free school meals programme to be extended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

And he took on ministers again as many vulnerable children head into the half-term without the safety net of food provided at school.

The Man United star forced the Government into a U-turn over the summer holidays after fighting for free school meals to be extended

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The Man United star forced the Government into a U-turn over the summer holidays after fighting for free school meals to be extendedCredit: PA:Press Association
Man Utd’s Marcus Rashford helps out at food charity after MPs reject bid to extend school meals

GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL exclusive@the-sun.co.uk

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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Manchester United ‘will activate Dayot Upamecano’s £38m release clause next summer’

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manchester united will activate dayot upamecanos 38m release clause next summer

Manchester United will reportedly activate Dayot Upamecano’s £38million release clause next summer as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to bolster his defensive options.

United have had their eye on the 24-year-old for some time, having previously invited him to Old Trafford for a tour of the club in 2015 before he moved from Valenciennes to Red Bull Salzburg aged 16 for £2million.

Having signed a new contract until 2023 with his current club RB Leipzig, Upamecano’s relatively small release clause will activate next summer – allowing Solskjaer to reignite his long-standing interest in the defender. 

Manchester United will activate Dayot Upamecano's £38million release clause next summer

Manchester United will activate Dayot Upamecano's £38million release clause next summer

Manchester United will activate Dayot Upamecano’s £38million release clause next summer

According to The Times, Upamecano’s release clause will become active during next years summer transfer window for £7million less than his previous – allowing a host of top-flight club’s time to prepare a transfer swoop.

Solskjaer will be looking to get ahead of the pack as he requires defensive stability within his Manchester United side.

Upamecano is a dynamic, confident defender who excels when playing in the counter-attacking style that Solskjaer deploys.

The Red Devils manager will have an opportunity to watch Upamecano in action as his players take on Leipzig in Wednesday’s Champions League fixture.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had his eye on the 24-year-old defender for some time

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had his eye on the 24-year-old defender for some time

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had his eye on the 24-year-old defender for some time 

Upamecano signed a new contract with RB Leipzig until 2023 after making 120 appearances

Upamecano signed a new contract with RB Leipzig until 2023 after making 120 appearances

 Upamecano signed a new contract with RB Leipzig until 2023 after making 120 appearances 

Having previously denied claims that he was trying to sign Upamecano, Solskjaer claimed he refused to respond to speculation out of respect for Leipzig – but insists he will be watching the defender ‘close up’ on Wednesday.   

Solskjaer said: ‘I’ve always tried to respect that they are players for other teams and don’t want to comment on every player that we are linked to, but since he’s playing against us tomorrow I know he’s a very good player so we can see him close up.’ 

Upamecano has featured 120 times for Leipzig since he joined from Red Bull Salzburg in January 2017. 

Upamecano’s impressive form for Leipzig has seen him gain the attention of Europe’s elite. 

Solskjaer hopes Upamecano will solve the defensive issues Manchester United are having

Solskjaer hopes Upamecano will solve the defensive issues Manchester United are having

 Solskjaer hopes Upamecano will solve the defensive issues Manchester United are having

However, it is still Manchester United who are leading the charge for football’s most coveted young defenders. 

United currently have six senior centre-backs in the first-team squad but have failed to show any defensive stability. 

Harry Maguire, who joined for a world-record fee for a defender – £80m – in 2019, has had a torrid time recently at the heart of the United defence, whilst players such as £31m Victor Lindelof and £27m Luke Shaw are flattering to deceive, having both made costly errors in recent Premier League defeats. 

Should Solskjaer sign Upamecano, he will hope his defensive troubles will finally be over. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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