Gareth Bale has given the clearest indication yet that he will spend the forthcoming season at Tottenham Hotspur after the Wales international was one of a quartet of players used in the club's kit launch.
Bale, who scored 26 goals last season as Tottenham finished fifth and narrowly failed to qualify for the Champions League, is coveted by a number of clubs including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
Yet Tottenham have consistently stated that he will not be permitted to leave, a factor that played a part in persuading the manager, André Villas-Boas, to remain at the club when PSG sought to lure him to Parc des Princes.
Spurs demonstrated their ambition in the transfer market last week by signing the Brazil midfielder Paulinho for around £17m though their pursuit of Barcelona's David Villa appears to have been frustrated after the Catalans agreed a £4.4m deal in principle – with a 50% sell on fee – to move the 31-year-old to Atlético Madrid instead. That represents a blow, but the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, is still hopeful Bale will sign improved terms at White Hart Lane to deflect interest from rival clubs for another year at least.
The 23-year-old's appearance promoting the club's new Under Armour kit is a reflection of Spurs' confidence. He joined Michael Dawson, Jermain Defoe and Brad Friedel in modelling the shirt.
The players had reported back to the club's Enfield training base earlier in the day for the start of pre-season work, with all anticipating they will be lining up alongside the PFA's player and young player of the year.
"You certainly want to keep someone as good as him, and I'm very lucky to play with him," said Dawson. "Last year, some of the goals he scored to help win us football matches were unbelievable. He's a top guy. He's here to do well, like all of us: like the manager and all the staff, we're striving to be successful for this club.
"He's one of the boys – the lads love having him around. You see him today, he is as I remember him coming in as a 17-year-old to this club. It hasn't always been easy since he signed – he was out of the team like myself – but the boy is world class."
"It's important that he stays," said Defoe. "This year, we want a great season and we want to get into the Champions League and to do that you've got to keep your best players. What Gareth did here last year was unbelievable when you look at the amount of goals he scored.
"At times he was playing out of position, up top or off the forward, and to show the composure he did in certain games – when he was one-on-one with the keeper he produced some unbelievable finishes. He's a special player. You want to keep your top players."
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image: © James Boyes