Jose Mourinho hails 'special' Gareth Bale as Welshman trains with Spurs teammates ahead of Europa League match

Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur during the Tottenham Hotspur training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on February 23, 2021 in Enfield, England.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho insists he is a huge fan of Gareth Bale and that the Wales forward has nothing to prove to him.

Bale endured a miserable start to his second spell at Spurs where fitness issues have prevented him making much of an impact after joining on loan from Real Madrid.

But the 31-year-old has started to show flashes of his old magic in the north London club's previous two matches.

In Spurs' 2-1 defeat at West Ham on Sunday, the introduction of Bale at half-time gave the team a much needed spark after an insipid opening 45 minutes.

His corner was flicked in off the post by Lucas Moura to drag Spurs back into the Premier League contest, while Bale also ran past defenders with ease and clipped the crossbar with a fierce strike from the edge of the area.

Three days earlier, Bale enjoyed his best game since rejoining the club with a man-of- the-match performance in Spurs' 4-1 thrashing of Wolfsberger in the Europa League last-32 first leg.

He supplied the cross for Son Heung-min to head home the opener before blasting home the second himself. It was the first time since April 2013 that he scored and assisted a Tottenham goal in the same game.

Mourinho said he is "totally convinced" about Bale's quality and hopes he will play a key role until the end of the season.

"He doesn't need to convince me of anything," said Mourinho ahead of the second leg against Wolfsberger on Wednesday. "I am totally convinced about everything. It's not about convincing me, it's about being ready to play the minutes we all would love him to play.

"It's a process. You feel that in matches in the last couple of years. It's the process. We want him of course to be ready to play every minute of every game.

"He is a player with special qualities, you could see against West Ham in the second 45 minutes the positive impact in the quality of the game. He had a cross, he had a couple of assists, he hit the crossbar.

"He is doing that better and better, but he is not playing 90 minutes, he is not playing every game. We have to manage his evolution. But he has nothing at all to convince me about."

Spurs have six games in March before an international break where Bale could play three times for Wales, so Mourinho is keen to manage him carefully.

"We play Wolfsberger, then we play Burnley, Fulham midweek, Crystal Palace at home and then hopefully we play Europa League again," he said. "We play nine matches – six plus three – in March.

"That's six for us at the club plus three for the national team. Our players are going to be on a nine-match run in March which is something absolutely crazy.

"And Gareth is a special example of a player we need to take care of. I can tell you that at this moment Gareth is playing all the minutes that he can and that we feel are good for his evolution.

"And what he wants and what we want is in this last part of the season to play more minutes and more crucial matches than he did."

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