In the world of football, Nottingham Forest are a sleeping giant, laying dormant like a volcano, but finally erupting in 2022 following their promotion back to the Premier League after 23 long years.
The Reds have since used that momentum to splash the cash in the transfer window, unearthing some talent that has since risen to prominence on Trentside, namely Taiwo Awoniyi and Morgan Gibbs-White, and several not-so-prominent, Jesse Lingard, Jonjo Shelvey and Andre Ayew.
While Forest have been prolific with their transfer dealings rather than accurate and astute like Newcastle or Brighton, it is easy to lose track of who has walked through the City Ground doors in the past two seasons, however, deciphering who they missed out on instead is an easier task to resolve.
Every team has stories to tell when discussing the ones who got away and became world-beaters elsewhere; Forest are no different. In 2020, they failed to strike when the iron was hot in their pursuit of Ivan Toney, missing out on the striker who chose Brentford as his destination.
Just as a deal was nearing completion, however, Bale made a U-turn, informing staff that he wanted to stay and fight for his place at White Hart Lane.
He joined Tottenham from Southampton as a highly-rated teenager in 2007 for £10m, but after struggling for form and confidence, playing second fiddle to Benoit Assou-Ekotto, he wasn’t fancied at the time by manager Harry Redknapp and according to ex-teammate Alan Hutton, could have seen his development stagnate.
Speaking to Daily Star Sport, Hutton said: “Gareth Bale had a difficult situation, he had all the talent in the world but just needed an arm round him from what I could see,
“I think it was January and Assou-Ekotto was playing left-back, Bale’s position at the time, and he got a call-up for the Africa Cup of Nations.
“Bale had to then step in and play, but prior to that there was word he was going to Nottingham Forest. I’m not sure if it was a loan or permanent but that says to me that [Tottenham manager] Harry [Redknapp] didn’t fancy him.”
Bale would soon become the most talented player that slipped through the grasp of Forest, as he later showcased his superstar qualities for Spurs.
The game-changer for Tottenham to unearth those talents was unleashing him as a left-winger, allowing him to utilise his frightening pace and world-beating talents in the final third, helping Spurs qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 2010 before tearing Maicon to shreds three months later, writing his name in lights with a hat-trick against Inter Milan at the San Siro.
What did Gareth Bale achieve after leaving Tottenham?
Across an illustrious career at the pinnacle of world football, Bale achieved greatness following a world record £85m move to Real Madrid in 2013, winning five Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles during his time in the capital.
Lauded as a “generational talent” by former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, Bale became a superstar in Spain, playing a huge role alongside the devastating duo of Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo as Real dominated domestically and in Europe, with the Welshman chalking up an eye-watering 173 goal contributions in 258 games for the club.
Bale produced several eye-catching moments in Spain that stand the test of time, including his humiliation of Marc Bartra in the Copa Del Rey final in 2014 and his overhead kick against Liverpool in the Champions League final in 2018, arguably the greatest ever goal in the competition.
If there was ever a man to step up for his club and country when it mattered, Bale was the man for the big occasion, cementing his place among the elites in world football for his ability to conjure up crucial match-winning moments out of nothing, with Peter Crouch paying an ode to his rapid rise to stardom.
Writing in his column for the Daily Mail a few years ago, Crouch earmarked Bale as one of the most impressive players he’s seen develop.
“When I was at Southampton there was a buzz about two kids at the Academy — Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale.
“Our paths did not cross for another couple of years until we were together at Tottenham. The young lad I saw initially had some confidence issues and had not enjoyed playing at left-back.
“The talk was that he was going to go to Nottingham Forest for £2m. Then, though, he started to find his feet. He got faster, stronger. His confidence began to grow and gradually all those special things we had been told about when he was a kid started to come true.”
Crouch was right, Bale sprung into life out of nowhere – almost like the several pieces of magic he conjured up throughout his exceptional career – and had he made a move to the City Ground in 2009, imagine how differently his career would have panned out.