SINGAPORE - It has taken a while for Gareth Bale to settle back into life in the Premier League under Jose Mourinho but Tottenham Hotspur legend Ledley King has said that the squad has always believed in the Welshman's "top-class" ability.
King, 40, who is currently an assistant first-team coach at Spurs, predicts that Bale can now kick on and prove to be a big player for them for the remainder of the season.
The Wales international, 31, delivered the most devastating impact of his second spell in north London with two goals and an assist in the 4-0 victory against Burnley last weekend.
King, who was speaking to a select group of media on the sidelines of a Zoom call organised by the club to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Official Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Club in Singapore, said: "He's always had the top, top-class ability. There is no doubt about that. He wasn't fit when he first came in and then he had to build up his match fitness, which he was trying to get in the Europa League and then he had a few niggles here and there and that kind of slowed him down.
"He is someone who really understands his body and he has been building to this point and now we are starting to see his quality. He just needed the confidence in his body to push through and perform at the highest level."
In his last four appearances, Bale has as many goals and assists (seven) as he did in his previous 16 appearances. The forward, on loan from La Liga champions Real Madrid who still pay part of his £650,000-a-week (S$1.2 million) salary, started just two Premier League games before the Burnley game, with his appearances restricted more to Europa League and Cup games.
Pundits have also put the pressure on, criticising Bale for the time he has taken to find his feet for Spurs.
Former Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea striker Chris Sutton labelled Bale a "bitter disappointment" while talksport pundit Tony Cascarino accused him of "not even trying".
King, who can often be seen leading drills on the training ground or before matches on the pitch with the Spurs players, defended his star attacker and warned others that they could now see the best of the four-time Champions League winner.
The former defender said: "I think he is at the best place he has been throughout the season both physically and mentally.
"He can be a big player for us. We've seen his quality throughout the years and there is no doubting his quality but its about how we can get the best out of him. We've got important games coming up and for sure, he's got a big part to play."
King, who along with Bale, was part of the 2007-08 Spurs squad that won the League Cup - the club's last trophy, also shared that Mourinho has not felt the pressure despite Spurs' mixed campaign so far.
Tottenham are eighth in the league before Wednesday's fixtures - six points off the top four while they are still in contention for two trophies, with the club facing Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League round of 16 and Manchester City in the League Cup final.
Said King: "I've seen the same desire from him throughout the season. He is the same man now as he was when he was top of the league. He is still motivated as ever and I still believe in what he can bring to this football club.
"We are alive in two Cups and we want to try and maximise that. We have a final against Man City and still plenty to play for in the league.
"All the teams around us will all feel the same that if they can put together a run, they can finish in the top four. The fight is on."