Gareth Bale hopes to play Tottenham in next season's Champions League

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Just beyond the turnstiles of White Hart Lane's South Stand, an enlarged photo of Gareth Bale looms over Tottenham's supporters.

Since Bale's departure from north London in 2013, he has been similarly conspicuous in his absence. The Welshman left a gaping hole in Tottenham's side, which they struggled to fill with the likes of Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, and Vlad Chiriches.

Former Spurs striker Garth Crooks commented at the time that they had "sold Elvis and bought the Beatles", but that did not immediately prove to be the case.


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Spurs more cohesive 

Now, it is a very different story. Mauricio Pochettino has assembled a cohesive, talented squad that is no longer reliant on one man. For all their dependence on the trusty Harry Kane, he has scored 24 goals this season, but Spurs as a whole have found the back of the net 65 times.

That is why Bale can no longer touch Spurs with his affectionate retrospecting.

Earlier this week, he told the Evening Standard: "It would be an amazing story if we drew them in the Champions League. It would be great to go back to White Hart Lane, me and Luka [Modric].”

Tottenham haven't played in the Champions League since the 2010/2011 season, but they are now just four points away from automatic qualification. In fact, that was the campaign in which Bale rose to global prominence with a hat-trick against Inter Milan at the San Siro. Spurs still lost that game 4-3, which was to become part of a familiar narrative where Bale was frustrated at their inability to challenge for major honours.

Right to leave

Winning the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2014, he was vindicated in his decision to leave Spurs' project. But until Spurs' 1-1 draw with West Brom on Monday, it looked as though the Lilywhites could have pipped him to a title.

For the first time in three years, Spurs no longer feel the need to talk about their former superstar. They are unlikely to be hoping for a reunion with him. On the contrary, they will look to avoid Madrid, the side that knocked them out by an aggregate score of 5-0 in 2011, at all costs.

Manchester City kept Bale quiet in their 0-0 draw with Real, but the most interesting thing about that game - in fact, quite possibly the only interesting thing - was the way Cristiano Ronaldo was greeted at Manchester airport by a legion of his former club's fans.

Bale should not be expecting a similar reception in London if Madrid are indeed drawn against Spurs. Few will be hostile, but the reality is that Bale might not get any real reaction at all - and that is a sign of just how far Spurs have come.

Who would you like to see Spurs play in the Champions League? Let us know in the comments. 

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Gareth Bale
La Liga
Real Madrid
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Tottenham Hotspur

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