Jose Mourinho insists Tottenham fans should expect a “different” Gareth Bale, even when he recovers his full match sharpness.
Mourinho was furious with the players that started the 1-0 defeat to Antwerp on Thursday, unhappy that they did not grasp their opportunity to claim a place in his Premier League side.
Gareth Bale was one of those, banking another 58 minutes as he builds up his fitness following a knee injury which delayed his second stint at Spurs.
The Wales international looked ring-rusty, but Mourinho says he is getting closer to his best physical level.
Mourinho did warn, though, that Spurs cannot expect the same player that wore the shirt seven years ago.
“I repeat the same – seven years is a long, long, long gap,” he said. “So which player in the world is the same as he was seven years ago?
“Sometimes they’re not better or worse, they’re just different players. For example you look to Ronaldo and Messi, and compare them with seven years ago.
“They play in different areas, different positions. They transform their qualities to try and explore their qualities in other responsibilities in the tactical system of their teams.
“I think it happens with the majority of the players, so for sure he is a different payer.
“Every word that I told on Wednesday I believe in them because he is working very, very hard. He is improving.
“He doesn’t have one single injury since he came back from the last one. He didn’t miss one single training session.
“To play 90 minutes is still hard, to play high intensity is still difficult, but he is improving. He is improving, and hopefully he will be back to a better level soon.”