Six seasons ago Tottenham were a decent Premier League side, comfortably breaking into the top half of the table while competing for Europa League positions.
Gareth Bale, meanwhile, was an average player. An average player and sub-par left-back.
But the past two years have seen both Bale and Spurs rise in stature, with the club finishing in the Champions League positions - though they unlucky not to participate last year with Chelsea reserving their place in the competition after winning it - twice in the past three seasons.
The emergence of Bale on to the world's stage has been truly remarkable. The Cardiff-born Wales international began his professional career with Southampton before making the switch to White Hart Lane in 2007 at the young age of 18.
Despite a fairly strong debut campaign in which he scored three goals in four starts, he was dropped the following season for a string of bad performances.
The following season saw Bale undergo knee injury, which ruled him our for two months. Upon his return, he was an 85th-minute substitute in a 5-0 win over Burnley. This win was Bale's first ever participation in a Premier League win, after going a record 24 matches without one. Spurs fans won't need a reminder of this - and patience with the then-youngster grew thin.
Then came the remarkable, as Bale's performances improved, a rivalry ensued for the left-back spot with Benoit Assou-Ekotto. A bold move from Harry Redknapp saw Bale move to left wing, in front of Assou-Ekotto, with the Welshman beginning to shine bright.
His pace and athleticism saw him begin to rip apart defences, setting the league alight. Slap on a new number - No. 11, a more attacking number, switched from No. 3 - and a new monster emerged.
After a series of eye-catching game-winning performances, Bale's stock has risen significantly. With his trusty left foot, Bale has almost single-handedly carried Tottenham into their current fifth position. If his one-man demolition job of Inter Milan in the Champions League in 2011 wasn't enough to make you a believer, he also set up all four goals to help Spurs overcome Young Boys 4-0 at White Hart Lane in the play-off round.
He went on to duplicate these performance in the league. He hit the game winners against Norwich, Stoke, Wigan, and West Brom, in recent time en route to his 25-goal performance this season. Manchester United, Arsenal, and Manchester City can attest in agony as a Bale inspired Tottenham pulled of seemingly unlikely wins.
To cut a long story short, Bale has developed beyond Tottenham. He is a world beater if ever I've seen one, and the sharks will continue to circle for his services. Real Madrid or Bayern Munich are the two realistic destinations, and despite signing an extension in March 2011 to keep him at the club until 2015, Tottenham would be wise to prepare for life without him.
Contrary to popular belief, Spurs will be just fine should they take a proactive approach.
Bale is currently a member of the elites - arguably amongst the top five wingers in the world, so replacing him like-for-like is simply out of the question.
Spurs should look to invest in perhaps another striker, while adopting a two-forward system to compensate for the loss of a world-class footballer on the flank. Spurs have employed one striker, usually Emmanuel Adebayor, in recent times with the midfield tasked with providing service for the big man.
The problem is that Adebayor has been shockingly inconsistent this camping, while Jermain Defoe has shown glimpses of brilliance in his minimal involvement. A newly-found partnership could bring out the best in either player, as could competition from a newly-acquired hitman, with Leandro Damiao linked in recent years.
Should Spurs be so keen to replace Bale with a winger, a bid for Sevilla's Jesus Navas could serve as a good bit of business. A cheeky bid for the disgruntled Nani perhaps could do the trick, or employ the service of a youngster for long-term production - Raheem Sterling of Liverpool, anyone?
The fact remains that Spurs have already done good business in midfield, acquiring Lewis Holtby, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Demspey in recent times, with Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker also performing admirably.
Sandro's return to fitness will come as welcome news, while boosting options in midfield. Spurs will also have done well to find another midfield piece. Andre Villas-Boas has much to ponder in the next two years, as I believe Bale will remain a Spurs player next season.
After that, however, Spurs will be playing a dangerous waiting game if the right precautions are not met.
After all Gareth can't Bale them out forever.
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