Roy Keane has questioned whether Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho really wanted to bring under-fire Gareth Bale back to the club.
Bale was an unused substitute for Spurs during the 3-1 win over Sheffield United on Sunday, the latest difficult episode in what’s been a frankly largely underwhelming second spell for the Welshman in North London.
The 31-year old has started just once in the Premier League since returning in the summer, and has also made just 12 appearances in all competitions so far this season.
Mourinho has previously been a long-term admirer of the winger, but his reluctance to hand him a regular role in his starting XI has understandably sparked questions over whether he has a future at Spurs beyond the end of the season.
Indeed, speculation over whether Spurs would be interested in a second season-long loan has already been raging, although Mourinho recently insisted that no discussions over the situation have yet taken place.
Nevertheless, there does appear to be some tension between the two, with recent footage from Spurs TV seemingly showing Mourinho saying in training : “You want to stay here? Or go to Real Madrid and play no football?” It was unclear exactly who the comment was directed at but national newspaper reports and plenty of fans believe it was Bale.
Speaking before Spurs’ 3-1 win over Sheffield United – a game that saw Wales team-mate Joe Rodon shine once again – Sky Sports pundits Graeme Souness and Roy Keane lodged their own theories on Bale’s situation.
“It’s strange that he’s involved, on the bench, suggesting he’s OK,” said Souness. “OK [he] can’t truly be match fit but good for 15 minutes, half an hour.
“Start him, give him 45 minutes. There’s no attempt to get him match fit.”
Former Manchester United captain Keane had his own take on it.
“I start to worry if Mourinho really wanted him, whether it was the chairman that brought him in because…not to be given many minutes.
Bale has laboured to find the sort of sharpness and form that once made him one of the world’s best players.
Mourinho recently said: “In the Premier League he has not played many minutes and then another small injury at Stoke where he was having a good first half.
“He’s now coming back, it’s not an easy process. Everybody knows the past couple of seasons at Real Madrid were not easy for him.
“But let’s go step by step and try to get the best out of him.”