Premier League Reload - Matchday 8Oct 10
It's finally official. Gareth Bale is back in the Premier League.
Seven years after swapping White Hart Lane for the Bernabeu the Welsh forward has completed an emotional return to Tottenham on a season-long loan.
His first spell with the club saw him win two PFA Player of the Year awards, earning him a £85 million move to Real Madrid - still the record transfer for a British player.
He went on to win four Champions League titles and two La Liga crowns during his time in Madrid, but ultimately it was not enough to satisfy the Spanish giants as Bale spent the majority of last season on the bench.
Having come close to joining the Chinese Super League last year, the 31-year-old finally ended his stay in the Spanish capital on Saturday evening, with Spurs agreeing to pay approximately £20m in wages and loan fees.
Just hours after completing the fairytale move, Bale sat down with his former team-mate Peter Crouch for his first media interview - airing in the build up to Spurs' visit to Southampton live on BT Sport from 11am today - since touching down in England.
The pair were both part of Harry Redknapp's vintage that reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2011, where they would eventually be eliminated by Bale's now parent club.
"It feels great to be back in an environment where I’m loved," Bale told Crouch.
"I’ve said in previous interviews that when I go back to Wales I feel that love and happiness and that’s when I’m able to play my best football.
"Coming back here I knew I was going to get a great reception. I love the club and I loved my time here.
"Hopefully now we can kick on and win a trophy - if not two! I just want to enjoy my football and give the fans something to smile about.
"I spoke to my wife and we felt like it was the right fit and the right time."
Bale scored in two of those four triumphant Champions League finals but the Welshman failed to win hearts and minds at the Bernabeu.
A combination of injuries and a frosty relationship with manager Zinedine Zidane saw him marginalised to the fringes of the first-team squad for the majority of the previous campaign.
Real Madrid marked Bale's exit with a brief statement that read: "Our club wishes the best of luck to a player who is part of one of the most successful periods of our history."
Despite the acrimonious circumstances surrounding his departure, the man that will wear number nine on his return to Spurs, holds no grudges.
"I’ve enjoyed it. I loved living there. There’s ups and downs at every club, wherever you go," Bale added.
"The highs have been incredibly high and the lows have been very low.
"I enjoyed achieving what we achieved but it’s time for the next chapter in my career. I want to continue to win trophies and I want to do it with Tottenham.
"I feel like when I’m happy I play my best football and I feel like coming back here to Spurs I’m very happy. I already feel the love at the ground meeting the staff and the players.
"When I’m in that mind-set I have no worries and it’s easy to let my natural ability take over."
Bale admitted the lure of playing under Jose Mourinho was one of the reasons he opted for a return to north London, adding he has already discussed what role he will play in the team.
Mourinho recently revealed he tried to sign the forward in his time as Real Madrid manager. Eight years on, the pair will finally unite in the white of Tottenham Hotspur.
Bale added: "He’s spoken to me about a few positions that he would like me to play and obviously I’m happy with that.
"He was a big reason for me coming back here. He’s a household name and a winner.
"He’s the perfect fit for Tottenham. We need to win trophies and he knows how to do that better than anyone.
"I know every Tottenham fan is desperate for a trophy and we’ll be trying as hard as possible in every competition to do that."
Bale's Real Madrid honours
Champions League: 2014, 2016, 2017 & 2018
La Liga: 2017 & 2020
Copa del Rey: 2014
Uefa Super Cup: 2014, 2016 & 2017
Club World Cup: 2014, 2017 & 2018
Even without this fairytale return, Bale would've gone down as one of the club's great players.
Only Harry Kane and Teddy Sheringham have scored more goals in a single Premier League campaign than the Cardiff-born star managed in 2012/13.
He is one of only four Premier League players to win the PFA Players' Player of the Year on two occasions - following on from Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He was also only the second Premier League player to win the award in the same season as the Young Player of the Year. The other play being his former Real team-mate Ronaldo.
Now he has the chance to become a true Tottenham immortal, as the club look to end their long wait for silverware.
"As a player I’m not going to be doing the same 90-yard runs down the wing every second. I understand my game more, it’s evolved since then," says a reflective Bale.
"I’m more grown up and mature. I might not act it sometimes when I’m joking around in training but I had to grow up living abroad.
"But I know I still have a lot to offer and I still have my pace. I’m excited to show what I can still do.
"We want to win things so I’m going to make sure I help the team as much as I can to achieve that."
The Southampton academy graduate is set to form a formidable strike partnership alongside Heung-min Son and Harry Kane.
While the potential of a Bale-Son-Kane triumverate is a mouth-watering prospect for Spurs fans, Bale's first goal is to regain his fitness.
The Welshman has had limited game time of late and is not expected to make his second debut until late October.
"I need to get fully fit. I haven’t trained since the Wales camp so I need to get on the training pitch," he added.
"Hopefully I can hit the ground running in my first game, whenever that may be.
"Harry's done incredibly well since he burst onto the scene and scored a lot of goals.
"To play with him and Son is an exciting prospect for all of us. We all want to chip in to help each other but our main goal will be to do as much as we can for the team.
"If we're all pushing in the same direction it could be a very exciting season.
"This club deserves a trophy. It’s been going in the right direction but a bit of silverware now is what we need and we have to strive for that."
Bale's new team face his boyhood club Southampton live and exclusive on BT Sport 1 HD and BT Sport Ultimate from 11am on Sunday 20 September.