Tottenham Hotspur had their hand in producing one of the Premier League’s finest ever players but knowing that will do nothing to ease the gut-wrenching pain of watching him depart to join European elite Real Madrid.
The story of Gareth Bale, boy from Wales, product of Southampton, close flop at Tottenham and eventual four-time Champions League winner at Real Madrid is well-documented.
It is remarkable: the thought that Bale, now considered one of the greatest, could have been another wasted talent had it not been for the perseverance of former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.
The determination to make something of a player and gift the footballing world ‘that game’ against Inter Milan. The night that made him; the fixture that reduced world-class right-back Maicon into a beer-chugging, mindless Sunday league player.
From then on, the only way was up. Bale was entertainment personified. Electrifying pace in the forward positions, creative prowess and a long-shot that looked like it had been fired out of a cannon.
It was only a matter of time before the “big” clubs came knocking, and the biggest of them all won his signature. Indeed, Tottenham fans may be concerned about potential exits in the Bale mould this season with the likes of Christian Eriksen linked with a move away to the Spanish capital and it’s not hard to argue that the manner of the Welshman’s protracted exit is largely the reason.
Yes, players had left before that, but Bale’s status as a hero of a newly emerging Tottenham under Andre Villas-Boas and subsequent strike meant that, even when things are going well, the vultures will always circle. And Daniel Levy will always sell.
It surely must hurt Tottenham fans to have seen star player so readily leave to become second-fiddle in the Spanish capital. After all, no matter what the price, no player was ever going to replace Cristiano Ronaldo as the poster boy. And he would have known that.
So why, they presumably asked, would he want to live in another players shadow when he could have been the Premier League number one?
It is a question we sometimes find ourselves pondering as well.
Real Madrid is by no means an easy gig. The fans are unforgiving, relentless and greedy, and Bale has struggled at times. Even becoming a bench player in his most turbulent periods.
But like with all good players he has adapted well, survived public scorning and continued to work his magic.
Boasting a record of 101 goals in 222 appearances and four Champions League titles to compliment his single La Liga winners medal, Bale has undoubtedly made a success of his time in Spain, despite some of the criticism currently levelled at him.