Had Sir Alex Ferguson got his way Gareth Bale would be turning out in a red shirt at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
With 11 goals to his name, including a hat-trick against Inter Milan in the San Siro, the 21-year-old Tottenham star has catapulted himself into an elite group of world stars. It is talent Ferguson spotted a very long time ago, only to be thwarted in his attempt to get it.
"We tried to sign him as a 16 or 17-year-old boy," reflected the United chief. "Southampton had a Scottish chief executive and George Burley was the manager. I don't know the full circumstances but they didn't accept our offer and I think they must have alerted Tottenham."
It has proved to be a major gain for Tottenham, although not before Bale was switched from a full-back to an orthodox wide player, the high point coming against Inter at the San Siro in October when he scored a sensational hat-trick.
"Bale has made the best contribution without a doubt," said Ferguson. "Eleven goals for a wide player is a really good return."
Not that Ferguson feels Bale is the only threat.
Rafael van der Vaart has been equally productive in his debut season for Harry Redknapp's men, whilst Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon have ingenuity and pace that cannot be ignored either.
"Van der Vaart has made a contribution goals-wise," said Ferguson.
"He has good ability on the ball, so he has been a good signing and Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon are also dangerous."
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