Ledley King backs fit-again Gareth Bale to have big impact
Tottenham legend and assistant coach hails Welshman after recent hot streak
With four goals and three assists in his last four matches, Gareth Bale is physically and mentally in the "best condition" he has been in all season, according to first-team assistant coach Ledley King.
The four-time Champions League winner has been roundly criticised since his return on loan from Real Madrid last September.
Former Liverpool manager and captain Graeme Souness suggested that the 31-year-old Welshman was "happy to sit on the bench", while ex-Spurs and Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov also questioned his "desire to play".
Former Chelsea and Marseille striker Tony Cascarino claimed Bale "just jogs" during matches and does not even "try to sprint". He added that Spurs manager Jose Mourinho "doesn't know what to do... with him".
The Portuguese appeared to hit out at the attacker last month, saying that an Instagram post from Bale with the caption "good session today" was "totally wrong" and a "contradiction with reality".
However, the Spurs boss has been more complimentary recently, saying after Bale's star turn in last Sunday's 4-0 win over Burnley: "There is not one single manager in the world that doesn't play Gareth Bale if Gareth Bale is in very good condition."
That win ended a run of five losses in six league games, the worst spell of Mourinho's storied managerial career.
One of his assistants, King, too, praised Bale in an interview with The New Paper yesterday.
The Tottenham legend, a one-club man who came through the academy to captain the side and play for England, yesterday took part in a Zoom call with Spurs' official supporters club in Singapore to commemorate their 20th anniversary.
Speaking ahead of the English Premier League clash away to Fulham tomorrow morning (Singapore time), King told TNP of Bale: "He's always had top-class ability...
"I think he came in at a difficult time, he wasn't fit when he first came in and then he had to build up his match fitness, which he was trying to get in the Europa (League) and then just had a few niggles here and there that kind of slowed him down...
"Gareth has been building and building to this point and now he's getting game time, we're starting to see his quality...
"This is the best period in terms of how he feels with his body. And hopefully, he can have a big impact from now to the end of the season."
King, 40, is in a unique position to judge the second coming of Bale, with the former centre-back having played alongside the Welshman at Spurs before his then-world record 100 million euro (S$160.5m) move to Real in 2013.
Explaining how the current incarnation of Bale is different from the explosive wide man the Spurs faithful fell in love with during his 2007-2013 first stint at White Hart Lane, King said: "He's not as much of a runner, although he's still very quick.
"He's not making the 60-70 yard dashes as much as he was when he was a young player and that's natural, but the quality is still there... (and) very evident.
"I think he's matured in terms of his intelligence, his awareness on the pitch. His movement is top class. He's just evolved as all top players do."
Another player who has evolved is star striker Harry Kane, who has largely occupied a deeper role this season, as evident by the fact he has the joint-highest number of assists (11) in the EPL.
Said King: "His footballing ability, not just his goalscoring, but his touch, his link-up play, his ability to find a pass... that's always been part of his game.
"And now we're maximising that and having players that are aware of that and moving off him...
"We're just seeing a more intelligent player... and his goalscoring is still there at the very top."
FULHAM v TOTTENHAM
(Tomorrow, 2am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)