Spurs: Why is the timing of Gareth Bale’s new contract so encouraging?
AFTER the disappointment of the goalless draw with London rivals West Ham, there was at least something for Spurs fans celebrate on Saturday night – the news of Gareth Bale’s new contract.
On the face of it, this was hardly ground-breaking. Despite speculation about his future, the Welshman had never given any indication that he was eyeing a move away from White Hart Lane.
In fact, the 21-year-old had signed a four-year contract just 10 months ago, in May 2010, which kept him at Tottenham until 2014.
Bale’s new four-and-a-half-year deal, which was announced at the weekend, takes him up to 2015, which is only one extra year.
So what has changed, apart from the winger’s monthly income? Haven’t Spurs just agreed a pay hike to ‘keep’ a player who had already been secured?
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And, anyway, signing a new deal is hardly a cast-iron promise of fidelity. Whisper it but, every now and then, players have been known to leave for bigger and better clubs in the middle of a contract.
True, this contract actually changes very little. However, if Bale’s latest commitment is a genuine pledge to the cause, then it is worthy of note - because of the timing.
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Few eyebrows were raised when the Welsh wizard signed a new deal, with improved terms, back in May.
At that point he had only been a first-team regular for four months, and Spurs had just qualified for the Champions League for the first time ever.
Ten months on, Tottenham’s European dream has come true, but that success is now being contrasted by the Lilywhites’ position in the Premier League.
Spurs may be awaiting a quarter-final tie with Real Madrid, but their failure to beat Blackpool, Wolves or West Ham has left their prospects of finishing in the top four again looking less likely than they have done for a long while.
That has sparked the suggestion that, having had a taste for the Champions League, the likes of Bale and Luka Modric may be tempted away from Tottenham in the summer.
After all, William Gallas has virtually admitted that his future at Spurs is dependant on another top-four finish, and another tilt at Europe’s biggest domestic tournament next season.
Why should Bale and Modric feel differently, when their stock has never been higher, and the likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Manchester City are sniffing around with bulging purses?
It has been a glorious year at Tottenham, going all the way back to this time last season with the victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and subsequently City, which secured the place in the top four.
But the fear is that Tottenham’s biggest stars get the feeling that this is as good as it gets. What if it is all downhill from here, starting with a fifth-placed finish in two months’ time?
Well, in that case, Harry Redknapp’s side will go away for the summer, improve the squad and start again in August – with one eye on the title as well as a top-four finish.
That is the message that Bale’s latest contract sends out.
After all, it is easy to pledge your future to a team that has just won the race – it is more remarkable to do so when you are losing.
“I’m enjoying my football at Tottenham. I want us to keep going forward as a team and hopefully we can achieve big things,” said Bale.
“We have got a great squad that is still young and we are going places. It is great to commit to this club and hopefully we can achieve what we believe we can with this squad. The players want what the fans want, and performing in front of these fans is a special experience.
“I definitely believe we can challenge for a title very soon. That is why I have signed. Every year as a minimum we are aiming to qualify for the Champions League so we are definitely going in the right direction.
“We have proven in the Champions League this season that we can compete with the best and we are in the last eight now and there is no reason we can’t go further this season and in years to come.”
Football tends to be short on perspective – every game is pivotal, it has to happen this season. It’s now or never, for the club, for the manager, for the players.
But, apparently, not for Bale, who has chosen arguably the lowest point of Tottenham’s league campaign to announce his belief in Spurs’ potential, and in the biggest way he can.
It is a notable and potentially influential gesture, and Bale will now hope that others will follow his lead and commit to the journey that lies ahead – however long it takes.