20 October, 2010: When Gareth Bale Became a Superstar at San Siro

Tom Gott
Oct 20, 2020, 12:15 PM GMT+1
Gareth Bale's breakout performance came in October 2010
Gareth Bale's breakout performance came in October 2010 | Clive Rose/Getty Images

Before 2010, Gareth Bale was a pretty good footballer. He had his bad spells, but generally, you'd want him on your team.

After 2010, or specifically after October 20, 2010, the entire world wanted Bale on their team.

The Welshman had been a driving force behind Tottenham' debut appearance in the Champions League in 2010/11, but it seemed like it was going to be a miserable stint in the competition as they were drawn in a group alongside European champions Inter.

Bale had faced a lot of stick during his Tottenham career
Bale had faced a lot of stick during his Tottenham career | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The Serie A side, built by José Mourinho but now led by Rafa Benítez, were outstanding, and they made sure Spurs knew it when they welcomed them to San Siro.

Javier Zanetti scored after just two minutes, Samuel Eto'o after 11 and Dejan Stanković after 14. Spurs, who were also a man down after Heurelho Gomes' early red card, trailed 4-0 at the break after Eto'o bagged his second.

Spurs were obviously a good side, but the gulf in quality between 'good' and 'great' was painfully apparent. Harry Redknapp's men were out of their depth.

Then Bale happened.

The Welshman, seemingly tired of all the criticism he had faced for not being the next big thing already, put Spurs on his shoulders and decided nothing was going to stop him - not even a collection of the world's finest defenders.

It began in the 52nd minute. Bale picked the ball up deep and went full Road Runner vs Wile E. Coyote on Inter, throwing out his finest meep meep as he breezed past both Maicon and Zanetti before firing home past Júlio César from a tight angle.

Sure, it was a nice highlight, but with Spurs 4-1 down in the 90th minute, nobody was really going to remember it, right?

Well, after he scored a carbon copy of the same goal again, he made sure people would remember it.

Bale was too much for Inter
Bale was too much for Inter | Clive Rose/Getty Images

Bale wasn't even done after that. He drifted away from Maicon and Zanetti in the box to find himself on the end of Aaron Lennon's pass, and the Welshman connected with yet another precise effort which flew into the back of the net and gave Inter a nervy last few seconds.

In the end, it didn't really matter. Inter won 4-3, but Bale was the only name on everyone's lips. Not only had he put in a 10/10 performance in the Champions League, but he did so against the defending champions in their own back yard.

This was a man who had been labelled as a 'curse' because of his lack of impact. This was a man who had been tipped to move to Birmingham City for just £3m one year earlier after failing to live up to the hype.

Now, he was a superstar destined for greatness, and he only had to wait a week or so for that greatness to arrive.

Bale shone against Inter back on home soil
Bale shone against Inter back on home soil | Clive Rose/Getty Images

This time, Inter had travelled to London for the return leg, knowing exactly what Bale was capable of doing, and yet they still couldn't stop him.

Bale ran riot once more, and although he didn't get himself on the score sheet, he did walk away with two assists as he dragged his side to a 3-1 win which often gets swept under the rug in favour of remembering his breakout performance.

"You have to put it into perspective," Redknapp said (via The Guardian). "Look at who we were playing, Inter Milan, the European champions, and look at who Gareth was up against. Many people rate Maicon as the best right-back in the world but he has given him the most torrid time you would ever wish to see. It was amazing.

Redknapp knew he was watching something special
Redknapp knew he was watching something special | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

"Luís Figo [the Inter ambassador] said to me afterwards: 'Bale has killed us, twice.' And when Figo says that, he must be a fantastic footballer."

An inevitable move to Real Madrid soon followed, but Bale is now back home where he belongs. Spurs fans will never forget what he did for the club, and Bale never forgot what the club did for him.

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