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Goodwood Races: Tips, racecards and betting preview for Day 3 on Thursday at Glorious Goodwood day live on ITV

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goodwood races tips racecards and betting preview for day 3 on thursday at glorious goodwood day live on itv scaled

DAY three of Glorious Goodwood is a stunner.

A cracking renewal of the Nassau Stakes is the feature event on a fantastic eight-race card. Our man Jack Keene has taken a close look and picked out his best bets.

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1.10 Mirabeau En Provence Handicap

CASPIAN QUEEN ran a rare poor race at Newmarket last time out.

But she was unlucky not to win here the time before and she could bounce back in the hands of Ryan Moore with first-time cheekpieces fitted.

Electric Ladyland beat the selection over C&D in June but is now 6lb worse off for a short-head.

She is still the likeliest danger, though narrow Windsor winner Glamorous Anna also commands the utmost respect.

SELECTION: Caspian Queen

1.45 Unibet You’re On Handicap

ZABEEL CHAMPION was a ready winner of a good Newmarket handicap last time out.

He is 8lb higher now but he is bred to improve with time and racing, so he should have more to offer.

Al Salt has bagged a couple of minor races on the all-weather and looks a nice prospect, but this demands a big step forward.

A bigger threat to the selection may come from Magical Morning, who was a solid fifth at Listed level last time and will be more at home back in a handicap.

At decent odds, keep an eye on Celtic Art who has been crying out for the step up to this sort of trip.

SELECTION: Zabeel Champion

2.15 Qatar Richmond Stakes (Group 2)

GUSSY MAC was a ready winner of the Dragon Stakes at Sandown last time out.

The son of Dark Angel saw his race out strongly and will relish the extra furlong here.

He gets the nod ahead of Yazaman, who has bumped into Tactical the last twice.

This sharp 6f should be ideal for him and he is a big threat. He looks to have Qaader covered on their Newmarket clash.

Admiral Nelson was bitterly disappointing at Royal Ascot but he had looked very exciting beforehand and it’s too soon to write him off.

SELECTION: Gussy Mac

2.45 John Pearce Racing Gordon Stakes (Group 3)

ENGLISH KING was a hugely impressive winner of the Derby Trial at Lingfield back in June.

He had a valid excuse in the Derby itself when never put in the race.

The drying ground is in his favour and he can turn the tables on Khalifa Sat, who was best positioned to pick up second place at Epsom.

Al Aasy is an interesting contender and brings a different form line into the race. He won nicely in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket, but a 3lb penalty makes life tricky.

Mogul has been hyped from day one but it’s been a while since he delivered.

SELECTION: English King

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3.15 Qatar Nassau Stakes (Group 1)

Nazeef is a winning machine and showed a great attitude to win the Falmouth Stakes last time.

But this step up in trip is a big question mark – she certainly isn’t bred for a mile and a quarter.

Deirdre was a ready winner of this race last season and she was far from disgraced when fifth in the Coral-Eclipse.

She should give it a good go again under the champion jockey, but FANCY BLUE is a filly going places.

Donnacha O’Brien’s three-year-old was ultra-game when landing the Prix de Diane and she will be hard to beat in receipt of weight.

Ballydoyle’s globe-trotting star Magic Wand should get the fast ground she craves and she isn’t opposed lightly.

SELECTION: Fancy Blue

3.45 Gusbourne Nursery Handicap

The Richard Hannon horses are flying at present and RUNNING BACK looks a good bet on handicap debut.

He was a close second in a tactical, four-runner race at Kempton last time when shaping as though the step up to this trip would be right up his street.

He gets the verdict over runaway Haydock winner William Bligh, who clearly has a decent engine but this will be the quickest ground he has encountered.

Calcutta Cup stepped up on his debut effort when a solid fourth at Newbury last time.

He will no doubt improve now tackling nurseries, while Mark Johnston’s Codebook and Monza City demand close attention in the betting.

SELECTION: Running Back

4.20 British European Breeders Fund EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes

Not a race to get too heavily involved in.

The ones with experience don’t set an amazing standard, though Teodolina was undeniably eye-catching when a never-nearer third on debut.

She will appreciate this longer trip and has an obvious chance, while Newbury runner-up Dreams Unwind bumped into a very useful-looking type on debut.

But it could pay to take a chance on the newcomer SPIRIT OF BERMUDA, who is speedily bred and was resold for 210,000gns at the breeze-ups last month. The Haggas team are on fire at present.

Another to catch the eye on paper is Zooma, though she could improve with age.

SELECTION: Spirit Of Bermuda

4.55 Tatler Nursery Handicap

WINTER POWER will likely be a warm order here but she looks to have plenty in her favour.

She bolted up on handicap debut last time out, showing blistering speed to win by five lengths.

This downhill track will suit and she is well-treated under her 6lb penalty.

Acklam Express and Different Face can battle it out for second place.

SELECTION: Winter Power

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England’s Joe Marler reveals that he had thoughts about ending it all and opens up on depression

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englands joe marler reveals that he had thoughts about ending it all and opens up on depression

There is a brief flash of chaos in the Marler household. Two of his children, Jasper and Maggie, have just been dropped off at school and his wife Daisy is rounding up their youngest, Felix, for a trip to the supermarket. 

It is the morning rush hour. Joe Marler is trying to get to grips with the coffee machine and their eight-week old puppy, Ziggy, is tearing across the kitchen with a chewed-up bandage.

‘Why couldn’t we just do this over f**king Zoom?’ quips Marler, attempting to regain control of the hot drinks. ‘Isn’t everything done over Zoom these days?’ 

Joe Marler opens up to Sportsmail about mental health and other career challenges

Joe Marler opens up to Sportsmail about mental health and other career challenges

The 30-year-old prop has played 66 times for England and has represented the Lions

The 30-year-old prop has played 66 times for England and has represented the Lions

We are here to talk about mental health. I argue that the sensitivities of the subject are better discussed in person.

‘That’s part of the problem, isn’t it?’ he replies. ‘Everyone thinks mental health is a “sensitive subject”, so they’re too scared to talk about it. It’s like it’s some kind of taboo. 

‘People suddenly start walking on eggshells the moment mental health gets mentioned. There are a lot of people sat at home depressed because they think we shouldn’t be talking about it.’

Marler, 30, finishes pouring the coffees before taking a seat. He has been working on his ‘latte art’ skills. ‘The real reason we’re not on Zoom is because you wanted a free f**king coffee, didn’t you?’ he says, handing over a flat white with a splattered milk finish on the top layer of foam. ‘This one’s the, erm, star constellation pattern.’

It is Marler’s first interview since pre-lockdown. He has a new look. He shaved off his thinning trademark Mohawk during the Six Nations and he now has a full head of conventional hair. Has he decided to leave his rebellious streak behind? It is an impressive transformation and attention is drawn towards his bandana.

‘Spit it out, mate,’ he says, before pausing. ‘You think I’ve had my lid done, don’t you? You think I’ve had a bloody hair transplant! There’s no way I’d shell out 10-grand for a hair transplant with all the COVID pay cuts. 

Joe Marler has a new look, he has shaved off the mohawk and has a full head of hair

Joe Marler has a new look, he has shaved off the mohawk and has a full head of hair

‘The only way I’d get a hair transplant is if it were free as some part of advertising deal… have you seen me advertising hair transplants? No. Lockdown happened and my hair started growing back… magically. 

‘Don’t worry, there’s another Mohawk on the horizon. I’m just letting it grow out first. I’ve never had a punk hair-gel Mohawk. That could be a bit of weapon in the scrums, couldn’t it?’

The radical haircuts are more than just a fashion statement. They are part of Marler’s DNA. They have been a key feature of the hard man image, alongside the tattoos and huge physique that has defined his career.

‘If you’re going to put yourself out there with a red Mohawk and white boots, you’ve got to make sure you perform,’ he says. ‘Otherwise you’re just that knob with the s**t hair. The Mohawk was a way of finding my feet in a sport where most of the guys were from private schools. 

‘I had a chip on my shoulder. I thought, “I’m going to prove a point here and I’m going to do it looking like a tw*t”. I never wanted to just go along with the norm and do as I was told.’

His talent, appearance and unpredictable personality have always stood out. But there is more to him than meets the eye. Marler’s machismo image, as he is about to reveal, has been a cover-up job. 

‘There was this moment when I was younger,’ he begins. ‘I was 19, new on the scene and we had a game against Northampton. I went down for a scrum against Brian Mujati and I heard Phil Dowson on the flank going, “Oh, here he is, the bipolar kid, he’ll struggle today”.

‘My head was gone as soon as I heard that. Bang. I was thinking, “What? How the f**k does he know what I’m like?”. I lost the plot and I couldn’t focus for the rest of the game.  

Marler believes his hairstyles in the past have meant he has to perform or he'll 'look like a tw*t'

Marler believes his hairstyles in the past have meant he has to perform or he’ll ‘look like a tw*t’

‘We were shaking hands at the end of the game and I said to him, “Here, where’s that chat come from? What’s the craic there?” Dows knew Ian Peel, who had coached me at age-group level. He just said, “Oh, Peeley mentioned how you’re a bit up and down, mate, so I saw it as an opportunity”.

‘He wasn’t wrong. I did blow hot and cold. Those particular comments didn’t really affect me — I always got on with Dows — but they stuck with me. Rugby is such a macho, alpha-male dominated sport and you don’t want to expose yourself. You don’t want people thinking, “This bloke’s weak as p*ss, he talks about his feelings, he’ll crumble, let’s get into him”.

‘I didn’t want my struggles with mental health to provide the opposition with an advantage. After that game, there was this worry that I could be exposed, so I tried to become this fake tough guy. 

‘I made a thing out of telling people to p*ss off. The scary haircuts and everything else were just part of this persona of, “F**k you lot, I’m all right, I don’t cry, I don’t kiss or cuddle”.’

It is an image that his friends and family were less familiar with. It was not the Marler they knew and loved. ‘I would always think in two different worlds: the real world and the fake rugby world,’ he says. ‘The rugby world was a fake character. It wasn’t real life.’

He kept the two worlds separate. So far apart that he was prepared to drive 140 miles to and from Harlequins training every day. But eventually the two worlds collided.  

Marler (left, below) says he was teased by Phil Dowson (right, below) about his mental health

Marler (left, below) says he was teased by Phil Dowson (right, below) about his mental health

‘For a few years, I was able to park things,’ he says. ‘Take the 2015 World Cup… we bombed out miserably, which was obviously dark, but I could come home to the real world to be a dad and a husband. No one died. Park it.’

Then came ‘Gypsygate’ when he targeted Wales prop Samson Lee with the insult in a Six Nations match in 2016. 

‘Then things were different,’ he says. ‘Usually, you punch someone, you get a ban and you go back to real life. This was different. I came away from that rugby world but everywhere I went, it was always, “You’re a racist”, “You’re a piece of sh*t”. My family would hear it. Suddenly those two worlds merged and I couldn’t get away from it.

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‘I had a meltdown. It was just engulfing me. I’m not a racist. I’ll tell you again: I’m 100 per cent not a racist. But the more people say, “You’re a racist”, “You’re a piece of sh*t”, the more you start to question yourself. Suddenly I’m thinking, “Am I actually a bad person?”

‘It came to a head when England were going to tour Australia in 2016. We had a camp in Brighton. I just thought, “I don’t want to be here any more. I can’t be doing with this sh*t. What’s the point?”

‘I was getting real world sh*t, as opposed to fake rugby stuff. I could see it affecting my wife and my family and I thought, “Screw this, I can’t do this any more”. I couldn’t be arsed with it and I went down after the first tackle in training, saying my calf was tight. 

‘The physio was like, “It seems all right, mate?” I was just looking for a way out. I sat down with the same physio and told him, “I hate it. I just want to get away to the middle of nowhere, jack it in and escape”. 

Marler claims the 'scary haircuts' were just part of a persona of telling people to 'p*** off'

Marler claims the ‘scary haircuts’ were just part of a persona of telling people to ‘p*** off’

‘I wanted to be there but I didn’t have the tools to be there. I was like a walking contradiction. I chatted to Eddie Jones in the bar and he said, ‘Good on ya, all the best’. I thought that would be the last time I spoke to him.

‘I got in the car to drive home from Brighton and just felt this massive rush. I rang Dais and said, “I’m on my way home, I’ve told them I’m not doing it any more”. Tears were rolling down my face and I balled my eyes out with relief. 

‘I watched that tour as a fan and there were parts of me that still wished I was there. But there were bigger parts of me that thought, “No, I’m good now”. The thing is… it was just a quick fix.’

Marler pauses for a sip of his coffee. He has been joined on the sofa by his dogs. His leg is propped up in a recovery pump, easing an accumulation of blood that has discoloured around his knee. Evidently, rugby’s toll has been physical as well as mental.

‘It’s called a Morel-Lavallee injury,’ he digresses, briefly. ‘Sounds like a type of ice cream, doesn’t it? Would you like a flake with that? They drained it with a few syringes and I’ve basically been left with club foot. 

‘Maybe best to wash your hands if the dog brings you that bandage, by the way, because it’s been wrapped around my gammy leg. COVID ‘n’ all that.’

Back to mental health. Marler, in the past, has been an expert at wriggling out of uncomfortable questions with a quick joke or a daft story. Here he is fully engaged. Nothing is off the table as he explains how his world became consumed by negative thoughts. 

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Marler was part of ‘Gypsygate’ when he targeted Wales prop Samson Lee with an insult in 2016

‘That stuff didn’t really rear its head again until March 2019,’ he says. ‘I’d gone back into the England set-up, then retired again. The fake world was starting to cross back into the real world. I’d become despondent at home. Not talking.

‘I was driving to work every morning, putting the radio on and crying. I was having these thoughts: “You’re pathetic. What are you doing here? What’s the point of it all?”. Not just the point of rugby… the point of life. It was a case of, “F**k it all”. There were times when I thought, “What would it be like if I wasn’t here?”

He added: ‘More and more, I was finding myself without a purpose. I had a wife, my kids and I’d say to myself, “They don’t need me, their mum’s incredible, they’d be all right on their own”. Those thoughts filled me with shame and guilt. They were thoughts that would leave the people closest to me in the lurch.

‘I was consuming myself with it. Next, I’d ask, “Why am I feeling like this? I’ve got so many good things going for me. A wonderful wife, wonderful kids, a roof over my head, a career”. 

‘I’d be saying, “How ungrateful are you, you piece of sh*t.” It was a constant battle in my head for quite some time. One day, I was out in the car with Dais and I ran over a squirrel. 

‘That’s when everything just exploded. A row broke out and I had a full meltdown back at home.’

Red mist descended. Daisy took refuge upstairs as Marler smashed up the kitchen.  

Marler revealed how the Gypsygate saga made him fall out of love with rugby in the aftermath

Marler revealed how the Gypsygate saga made him fall out of love with rugby in the aftermath

‘You see the knuckle here,’ he says, drawing attention to the fifth metacarpal on his right hand. ‘They call it boxer’s knuckle. It’s a common injury when you’re a sh*t puncher and you glance, rather than connect. That door just around the corner… I put my fist right through it. I thought, “F**k this, I’m gone” and stormed out. 

‘Daisy was seven months pregnant. I lost control and I was happy to just walk out… that was me gone. Those things weren’t supposed to happen in the real world. That was my most shameful moment.’

There was little time to reflect and reconcile. The following morning, Marler was due in for a Harlequins match against Saracens at the Olympic Stadium. His fist remained painful.

‘It was broken,’ he says. ‘I told the doctor that I’d dropped a weight on it. He knew I was lying. I could tell he was concerned and I broke down in front of him. 

‘He realised he needed to intervene and he put me in touch with an independent clinical psychiatrist. My behaviour had been affecting the team and everyone else, but I had a complete lack of self-awareness. One minute I was buzzing, full of energy and the next minute I was f**king poisonous.

‘I’d tried a couple of sports psychologists before, but that wasn’t what I needed. It was just patching over the cracks. Seeing the clinical psychiatrist was a big moment for me. 

‘Delving deeper into underlying issues, exploring the mind and realising how you can get help with that. 

The prop also claimed that rugby took its toll on his physical health rather than his mental one

The prop also claimed that rugby took its toll on his physical health rather than his mental one

‘Counselling, life coaches, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy. That was the start of me getting a better understanding. I realised they’re not separate worlds. The more help I got, the more I got to grips with it, the better I felt.’

It was a new world, outside of Marler’s comfort zone, that he had never explored.

‘Originally there was a suggestion I was bipolar,’ he says. ‘There was something in the psychiatrist’s report but he said, “No, I don’t think he presents as a manic depressive or bipolar, I think he’s dealing with depression”. I said, “What do you mean, depression?” Someone will be reading this thinking, “Bloody hell, mate, what have you got to be depressed about? There’s some poor sod on the dole because of COVID, a single mum, lost her grandparents who’s getting on with it and not sitting there with depression. Stuff your sob story”.

‘I fully get that. I was consumed with the similar guilt of, “Why the f**k am I feeling like this?” The reality is that it can affect anyone. I explored the chemical side of the brain and they said that I should take anti-depressants.’

Initially, Marler battled with himself about the stigma of medication. ‘I didn’t want anti-depressants,’ he says. ‘I thought, “I don’t need f**king pills… I don’t want to rely on pills… that’s weak… I want to be able to sort it out for myself”. 

The doctor spoke to me and said, “If you’ve got a virus, do you take antibiotics?” I said, “Er, yeah”. So he explained how antibiotics build up white blood cells, or whatever, to help cure you. 

‘He said that’s exactly how you should look at anti-depressants. I was taking them like an antibiotic, while doing CBT to help put the processes in place. It suddenly made perfect sense. It didn’t feel like a weakness any more.’

The England player admitted that he questioned his ability which affected his career

The England player admitted that he questioned his ability which affected his career

Marler began feeling better and, for the second time, was offered the chance to return to the England squad for the World Cup in Japan.

‘The anti-depressants were pre-World Cup and during the World Cup,’ he says. ‘There were a lot of questions when I went back into camp. Some of the older boys were asking, “Why?” and I said we’d talk about it another time.

‘It was back to that contradiction because I’d realised the importance of talking but I wasn’t happy to talk about it with my team-mates. I didn’t want them worrying during a World Cup thinking, “Lads, is Marler all right?” There is no weakness in talking but at the time — rightly or wrongly — I just didn’t go there.

‘Instead, I just spoke to the team doctor because he had to know about the medication side of things. Have you ever tried to get anti-depressants into Japan? 

‘Jesus! They are strict as f**k! I had someone there who was aware of things and there for me to speak to.

‘That World Cup was one of the best experiences of my life. Yes, the goal was to win it but I still had an unbelievable time. 

‘We lost the final but some of the best experiences in life are not pleasurable, pleasant, positive or successful. My wife and my favourite kid had flown out, too, and they loved it. We all loved it.’

He backtracks for a moment.

‘That’s a joke, by the way. The two other kids were too young. I don’t have a favourite. They only read the Guardian and the FT, anyway, so they won’t see this.’

Carrying on.

Marler also admitted he ran over a squirrel and broke his hand by smashing through a door

Marler also admitted he ran over a squirrel and broke his hand by smashing through a door

‘Anyway, in my head, I was asking myself whether I would still be having this unbelievable time without these tablets. I got home and I told myself, “Right, I’m fixed, so I’ll can these anti-depressants and no more talking to my shrink, because I’m f**king back on the horse!”. 

‘But those two weeks after the World Cup sent me spiralling back out of control. Once again, I started questioning myself: was it because I’d come off the drugs, or was it just the post-World Cup comedown?

‘All the boys have the post-World Cup blues. It’s normal. You get used to this regimented lifestyle, then it suddenly stops and you’re there thinking, “What time am I getting up tomorrow?” 

‘It turned out you shouldn’t ever stop taking anti-depressants straight away. You should taper off. I spoke to the doc, got back on them and I started feeling good again.’

And does he still take them to this day?

‘Yeah, I do. What about yourself? Ever struggled with depression? What about you, Hoops [the photographer]? Do you want to talk about it? The shoe’s on the other foot now, isn’t it, you swines.

‘Everyone has some form of sadness, don’t they? Just to varying degrees. You shouldn’t be worried to say so if you’re feeling a bit sh*t. That’s the stigma we need to get rid of. 

‘Depression is different because you feel like you can’t get out of it and you’re constantly in the fog, but speaking about it doesn’t make you weak. It’s a positive step.

Marler admitted that life coaching sessions and therapy has helped him through this struggle

Marler admitted that life coaching sessions and therapy has helped him through this struggle

‘You can still have a laugh. I don’t want people whispering, “Oh, don’t take the p*ss out of Joe, don’t make him sad, because he’s on anti-depressants”. F**k that. We’re here now, talking about it and having a laugh, aren’t we Hoops? Hoops? Wake up, Hoops!’

Turning attention to more recent times, life threw Marler another unexpected challenge during the Six Nations. He was caught on camera fondling the testicles of Wales captain Alun Wyn-Jones. The incident exploded and threatened to knock things back off course.

‘There was a similar sort of circus around it,’ he says. ‘I could feel the same sort of emotions as Gypsygate. I thought, “Hang on a minute, I haven’t sexually assaulted someone”. There were moments when I thought, “F**k them, f**k the rugby authorities, f**k the people on Twitter, f**k the media… they’ve all got this wrong”.

‘At times, I was in denial and refused to accept that I’d done anything wrong. There was a little flicker where I thought, “Maybe I’ll just pack it all in, I can’t be doing with the drama”. But it’s that same contradiction, as I love the drama.

‘Eventually, I accepted that it was wrong and I was in a far better place to cope with it. I listened less to the outside noise. It didn’t take over my life like Gypsygate. It was so polarising that Alun-Wyn was getting as much heat as I was. 

‘I sent him a message on WhatsApp and said, “I’m sorry about what happened, mate. I owe you a pint”. He replied saying, “You’re buying mate! You’ve clearly had fair bit of sh*t yourself”.

‘Of course, I regret it. It was one of those brain-fart moments, but it wasn’t a red-mist moment. I was having a laugh with someone who I know well, I thought. It just happened that it was on national TV in front of millions of viewers.

‘But yeah, it was my fault. As soon as I owned that, I was in a position to carry on. There will still be brain-fart moments, but I’m hoping I’ve got a little bit more self-control and structures in place in my own mind to deal with it. 

‘Now I feel like I can enjoy things and love the sport, because it’s given me far more than it’s taken away.’ 

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Telepathic Thiago Alcantara can take Liverpool to the next level

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telepathic thiago alcantara can take liverpool to the next level

It is always important for clubs to improve when they are at the top. Freshen up the squad, keep the star players on their toes.

When I was growing up, it was something Liverpool were always good at. They have done it again with the signing of Thiago.

He was the best player in the Champions League final and Liverpool have managed to get him for £27million at a time when Chelsea have spent nearly £150m on Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, and Manchester United may have to pay more than £100m for Jadon Sancho. That is great business by Jurgen Klopp.

Thiago Alcantara is capable of taking Liverpool to the next level after his move from Bayern

Thiago Alcantara is capable of taking Liverpool to the next level after his move from Bayern

I remember when Pep Guardiola came to Bayern Munich there was a headline in a German magazine and it read: ‘Thiago oder nichts’. Thiago or nothing. He was still at Barcelona, a talented player but not a star. Yet here was Pep saying that this was the man I want to conduct my play. He knew what we now all see.

Liverpool’s front three will love this signing. When you look at Thiago’s stats, he is not like Kevin De Bruyne or Thomas Muller who will record 20 assists a season. He is usually the one to play the assist to the assist to the assist. He always wants the ball. He can open up the whole game, change the entire situation with just one pass. His speed of thought creates the space his team need.

Not only is he a conductor, but he’s a chess player too. He is always two moves ahead and they are ones that change the game.

Liverpool's front three will love playing with Thiago, who is capable of playing superb passes

Liverpool’s front three will love playing with Thiago, who is capable of playing superb passes

Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum are all fine midfielders but none can do what Thiago does. You give him the ball — he knows whether the best play in the situation is to calm the game down or speed it up.

Sometimes you find playmakers who do what they want for themselves. With Thiago, you find yourself asking: ‘How did he know his team-mate wanted him to do that?’ He’s got different attributes but he still fits the culture of a Liverpool midfielder. They’ve always had that kind of player, who wants to be at the centre of everything, going back to the Jan Molby days.

Thiago, who has been praised for his attitude, is capable of setting the tempo with his passes

Thiago, who has been praised for his attitude, is capable of setting the tempo with his passes

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He’s a good lad, with a great attitude. Bayern were desperate to keep him. He was a valuable member of the team and very much liked in the club.

Tempo in modern football is unbelievable and there are very few players who can regulate it. Thiago can. There are players who have too many touches, slow the team down. He has an enormous number of touches, but every one seems necessary.

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Gareth Bale is a different player to the one that left Tottenham as a sinewy athlete seven years ago

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gareth bale is a different player to the one that left tottenham as a sinewy athlete seven years ago

There was a sense of giddy anticipation at Tottenham‘s training ground last week as hordes of supporters flocked to welcome Gareth Bale as he arrived to finalise his sensational return.

Gleeful cheers and applause serenaded the Real Madrid winger’s arrival at Enfield. Camera phones flashed at a grinning Bale, while some fans snapped selfies through the car window.

You can understand the buzz. Bale is still a world superstar, a four-time Champions League winner, scoring in two finals. For Tottenham, a club now without Champions League football, on a quest for silverware and inspiration, what could be more exciting than the return of one of your greatest ever players? Even if he is going to cost £13million for the rest of the season, with Spurs paying at least half of his £500,000-a-week wages.

Gareth Bale marked a sensational return to Spurs on Saturday, signing a season-long loan deal

Gareth Bale marked a sensational return to Spurs on Saturday, signing a season-long loan deal

The 31-year-old Tottenham hero will be looking to bounce back after a torrid year in Madrid

The 31-year-old Tottenham hero will be looking to bounce back after a torrid year in Madrid

Spurs confirmed his signing from Real Madrid on Saturday, along with left-back Sergio Reguilon, for a fee that could rise to £32m.

Bale, who will wear the No9 shirt, said: ‘It’s nice to be back where I made my name. I always thought about returning. I’m hungry, I’m motivated I can’t wait to get started. I want to help the team win trophies. Hopefully I can bring a bit more belief back to the dressing room and that winning mentality.

‘I want to get us to the next level and that’s win trophies. To do it at Tottenham now would be a dream come true.’

The memories of Bale marauding down the Spurs wing at peerless speed, a blur past helpless defenders, firing in shots from all angles, is enough to get any Tottenham fan fired up. But that was seven years ago. Much has changed. Bale, 31, has changed. He is a different player now, still elite, but not the young, sinewy athlete who wowed White Hart Lane with his pace and power.

But the Bale that returns is a different player to the one that left for a world record fee in 2013

But the Bale that returns is a different player to the one that left for a world record fee in 2013

Bale's pace and power was sensational in his first spell but we are less likely to see that now

Bale’s pace and power was sensational in his first spell but we are less likely to see that now

This is a Bale who has suffered knocks and is believed to be carrying a knee injury that will mean he will have to wait another month to play. Spurs face his former club Southampton on Sunday without him. This is a Bale who touches the ball less, dribbles less and shoots less. Last season was his worst return for goals and assists.

Yet this is also a Bale whose longest run of games last season for Zinedine Zidane was four. Of Madrid’s last 16 games, Bale featured in three. Among the others he spent on the bench, he was pictured yawning, pretending to nap with his face mask over his eyes and using a small tube as a makeshift telescope. A lack of desire versus a lack of motivation from a manager who clearly does not want you there.

Jose Mourinho wants him at Tottenham. Will that make the difference once Bale is fit? ‘If he was a car, the mileage in the last few years is well below the average because he hasn’t played 40 games a season,’ says Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle. ‘So the car is in good nick. The problem is — is the engine OK? I’m not worried about what he does on the pitch because he’ll be sensational but it’s about the engine in there.

A series of injuries and knocks means that the Welshman has to be handled with care

A series of injuries and knocks means that the Welshman has to be handled with care

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho wanted him, and now he will have to handle Bale carefully

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho wanted him, and now he will have to handle Bale carefully

‘It’s almost like being a pit stop with an F1 car. You’ve got to get him tuned right and protect him at the right times because Bale is one of those players who rely on their pace on and off the ball. It’s just about tuning that engine and I think he can still be as sensational as he was at Real Madrid and when he left Tottenham.’

In his last season at Spurs, he scored 21 goals and set up another four. Those who have played alongside him also believe Bale can make the difference. Luka Modric was a team-mate of Bale’s for 11 years at Spurs and in Madrid and said: ‘He is a great player. If he is fit mentally and prepared, he has two or three great playing years ahead of him.’

Hoddle added: ‘Hopefully, if we get enough football out of him and keep his body right, it will turn into silverware as well. That’s what Spurs fans want.’

The BT Sport Monthly Pass lets you watch BT Sport for a simple monthly fee of £25 with no contract. Customers can watch all BT Sport Premier League fixtures for the next 30 days including Southampton vs Spurs from 11.30am today. For more information visit: bt.com/monthlypass

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