Gareth Bale has moved on from Tottenham Hotspur. Since departing the Premier League in the summer transfer window, he has scored four and set up a further five goals in his opening 10 appearances for a Real Madrid side appearing to gain momentum.
Moving on from Bale has been—and will likely continue to be for the immediate future—trickier for Tottenham.
Although the Welshman's world-record sale was concluded back at the start of September, just how good the deal was for his former club will not be fully discerned for some time to come. Little as they could do about his leaving (in terms of convincing him to want to say), they will be judged in how they fare without him.
So far, though, it is safe to say Bale has been missed.
There is no exact science to comparing Spurs with and without their star player of 2012-13.
As good as that multi-award-winning season turned out to be, the corresponding opening few months of last year were Bale's quietest. It was in mid-to-late November when he began to up his game to an even higher level. He is already at that stage this time around in Spain.
Spurs' upcoming match with Manchester City is not especially good for a direct comparison, even with it being just over a year since their last meeting in the North West—one which also had top-four ramifications. Bale's lacklustre showing in that 2-1 defeat is not the best example of why his absence has hurt his former club.
However, it is clear that the productivity (26 goals that came with impressive frequency post-Christmas) and sheer quality of his performances (Aston Villa, West Ham United and Arsenal among them) over last season especially have not yet been replicated (not by one individual anyway). The league table and the eye test will be the most pertinent judges of these respective areas over the coming months.
Partly charged with compensating in both those areas have been those brought in with the reported £85 million from his sale.
Only the versatile attacker Erik Lamela could be considered anywhere near a like-for-like replacement. Having seen little Premier League time as he adjusts to life in England, though, it is definitely a case of ask again later in judging the success of the almost £30 million Argentinian.
Of the others who have featured more regularly in Bale's wheelhouse of midfield and attack—Christian Eriksen, Paulinho and Roberto Soldado—Spurs have seen promise, but not yet concrete proof, they will be worth the expensive transfer fees paid them.
On paper, the varied and combined qualities of these players should, along with existing players, be enough to keep Andre Villas-Boas' team on track to compete for their yearly aim of a top-four place.
With Spurs only three points off second but stuttering of late in both results and attacking consistency, making the reality match this has unsurprisingly proven more difficult. Of the positives of this process, Paulinho's consistency at the heart of midfield has stood out, as demonstrated by this recent tweet from SpursOfficial:
Eriksen's creativity blossomed in his first few appearances but has been more stifled since then. Injury on international duty will mean for a month at least Spurs will have to go without the Dane as the fulcrum of their attack.
Somewhere in between Paulinho and Eriksen is Soldado. The Spain striker was signed to provide his team with a more substantial goal threat up front, essentially taking on the significant responsibility Bale so splendidly assumed last season.
Six goals in all competitions has been a decent start, but not yet enough to replace the contribution of his predecessor. Soldado told SpursTV he believes he will get there:
I'm realistic, I know I'm not 100 percent there yet, but I'm getting there in terms of playing combinations with my teammates. I always give everything that's the way I am. I'm striving to get to top form and play at 100 percent, I'm a perfectionist and I think that moment is coming quite soon.
I scored penalties and it doesn't matter how the goals come. I think the fans have given me the strength to improve even more. My goals have led to wins but myself and the manger want more and that's what I want to give to the fans.
"Wanting more" could serve as the seventh-place Spurs' mantra right now. They have not been bad, but with their aspirations and the money spent trying to achieve them, they need to take it up a notch or two.
As it all relates to the consequences of their former star player's leaving, things have not been so problematic as to warrant an unfortunately rhyming, tabloid-style headline of "BALE SALE FAIL." Nonetheless, work clearly still needs to be done for Tottenham to truly be regarded as having done well from the deal they never wanted to make.
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