By Greg Stobart
Another week, another stunning performance from Gareth Bale to drag Tottenham closer to a top-four finish in this season’s Premier League.
The Welshman took his tally for the season to 13 league goals at White Hart Lane with two decisive strikes in his side’s 2-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday.
The 23-year-old is the form player in the top flight and Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, must be rubbing his hands as Bale’s asking price rises with each deadly display.
The simple truth is that the north London club would not be able to replace Bale, however much money is thrown at them by European giants in the summer.
Bale has now scored Spurs’ last four goals as Andre Villas-Boas’ side target a place in next season’s Champions League - and the only concern is just how much the Londoners rely on their star man.
Just as Manchester United are reliant on Robin van Persie for goals, Bale has the rapier quality not seen in any of Spurs' top four rivals: none of Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton boast a player quite as electric as the former Southampton man.
Van Persie has guided United to a nine-point lead at the top of the Premier League with 18 goals this term, but the more accurate comparison might be with the Dutchman’s form in inspiring Arsenal to a third place finish last season.
Where would Spurs be without Gareth Bale? Probably in mid-table.
Tottenham are utterly reliant on Bale for his goals, his crossing, his energy and his drive.
There are few more frightening sights in world football than Bale running at defences like a thoroughbred racehourse, waiting for space to open up.
Here, he gave Spurs the lead in the fifth minute with a perfectly struck free-kick over the wall from 25 yards.
But it was when he was moved into a more central area for the final quarter of the time that Bale really made the difference.
It is a role Bale increasingly feels makes the best use of his abilities, giving him the freedom to roam a la Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the 78th minute, he took advantage of the slightest hesitation from the Newcastle centre-backs to burst through the middle at turbo speed and slot his finish through Tim Krul’s legs.
And as space opened up and defenders’ legs grew weary, Bale went into overdrive in search of a hat-trick, forcing Krul into two fine late saved and shooting over the bar with a simple right-footed chance.
“Great teams are made of great individuals too,” said Villas-Boas after the match. Gareth has been decisive and I’m happy to see him enjoying his football - but it’s unfair to say we rely on him.
And what about the fears that the £50 million-rated star could be leaving Spurs for Real Madrid in the summer?
“Most teams have to hang on to their best players,” Villas-Boas continued. “Barcelona losing Messi would be a disaster, Real Madrid losing Ronaldo would be a disaster.
“There are no release clauses at English clubs and it’s very difficult to negotiate with Tottenham - as you know!”
Real Madrid know - but that won’t stop the Spanish giants from doing everything they can to sign the most electric player in the Premier League.