Gareth Bale is being strongly linked with a stunning return to Tottenham as talks continue to end the star’s Madrid misery, the Welshman having become an increasingly peripheral and unwanted figure at the Bernabeu.
The silverware successes of Bale’s career having come during his seven season spell at Real Madrid, but arguably his peak years in terms of individual performance were in his final campaigns at Spurs.
Bale was twice named as the PFA Player of the Year during his final three seasons with the north London side and discussions over his potential return are likely to be greeted with feverish excitement amongst the Spurs supporters, the 31-year-old arguably the division’s finest footballer in his Premier League prime.
Should the move be completed, Bale will join a long list of Premier League icons to make emotional returns to their former clubs, and we’ve decided to look back at five of the very best.
Here are five times Premier League legends returned to their former club:
There are few players that are held in quite the esteem afforded to Juninho at Middlesbrough, the diminutive, dancing Brazilian arguably the club’s most popular player of the modern era.
The midfielder had attracted interest from a host of clubs across Europe following his performances for Sao Paulo, before surprisingly opting for Teeside to join a fun but flawed side where he was later joined by marquee arrivals including compatriot Emerson and Fabrizio Ravanelli.
His debut season was one of adaptation as the boy from Brazil adjusted to his new, rather unfashionable, surroundings, before bursting into life during an unforgettable second season.
Middlesbrough’s cosmopolitan side managed to reach two cup finals – losing both – in addition to being relegated, a three point deduction for failing to fulfil a fixture against Blackburn proving costly.
The images of Juninho attempting to keep the club up almost single-handedly are amongst the most memorable of Middlesbrough’s Premier League existence, however, the playmaker scoring 15 goals in all competitions to incredibly be named as Premier League Player of the Year in a relegated side.
That drop into the second tier saw Juninho depart for Atletico Madrid in order to keep alive his international ambitions, before returning from Spain for a loan spell at the turn of the millennium.
The fans’ favourite then returned for a third and final spell in his adopted North East home and helped the club to the first major trophy in their history with League Cup success in 2004, ‘The Little Fella’ firmly assured of his place in Middlesbrough hearts.
Teddy Sheringham signed for Tottenham during the opening weeks of the inaugural Premier League season, finishing as the division’s leading scorer during that maiden campaign and establishing himself as an indispensable figure for the north London side.
An intelligent forward player with subtle class, Sheringham formed memorable strike partnerships with the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann and Chris Armstrong at White Hart Lane, scoring 98 goals in just 197 appearances over a five season spell.
Aware his chances of winning elusive silverware were reducing as he entered his thirties, however, Sheringham opted for a switch to Manchester United as Eric Cantona’s replacement and it moved an inspired move.
He won three consecutive league titles and a historic treble during his time at Old Trafford, his final season seeing the star named as PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year after a 21-goal campaign.
The arrival of Ruud van Nistelrooy saw the veteran leave the club on that high, rejoining Spurs and scoring 26 goals over two seasons.
Despite leaving Spurs for a second time at the grand old age of 37, Sheringham played on professionally for a further five seasons at a succession of clubs, becoming the oldest outfield player and oldest goalscorer in Premier League history.
In truth, Robbie Fowler never really wanted to leave Liverpool.
This was a player who burst onto the scene like few others have, a frightening teenage talent who made an instant impact to cement his position as an Anfield favourite.
Fowler was a reflection of those who adored him on the terraces, a local lad turned good, though one who was blessed with a natural goalscoring instinct that saw him become the Premier League’s most exciting young talent.
The Toxteth-native scored 13 goals in his first 12 appearances for the Liverpool first-team and the goals continued to flow at a rapid rate, Fowler hitting 30+ goals in all competitions for three successive seasons, winning back-to-back PFA Young Player of the Year awards.
That, however, was as good as it got for Fowler who never scored 20+ goals after reaching his 23rd birthday, injuries taking their toll on a sublime talent despite him playing his role in the Reds’ FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001.
Having fallen behind the likes of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey in the pecking order he made a surprise move to rivals Leeds United, before moving on once more to Manchester City as financial problems struck the Yorkshire outfit, neither move ever truly feeling like home.
Despite his status having slipped and injuries having zapped his youthful endeavour, Rafael Benitez gambled on the fans’ favourite by signing Fowler on a free transfer during the 2006 January transfer window.
Whilst far from the force of old, it proved a feel-good transfer as Fowler scored 12 goals over two seasons to take his overall tally to 183 goals, the sixth-highest tally in Liverpool history.
Thierry Henry became the greatest goalscorer – and arguably player – in Arsenal’s history during a glittering eight-year spell in north London, the forward standing out as the Premier League’s finest footballer for much of his time with the Gunners.
That spell saw Henry win two league titles and two FA Cups in a formidable team under the guidance of Arsene Wenger, the Frenchman the talismanic figure of an Arsenal side who incredibly completed an entire league season without defeat.
Winner of a record four Premier League Golden Boots, Henry was twice named as the PFA Player of the Year and as the FWA Footballer of the Year on three occasions, a player who seemed comfortably a level above all of those around him.
He scored a phenomenal 226 goals in all competitions to eclipse Ian Wright as the Gunners’ all-time record goalscorer before opting for a new challenge at Barcelona, winning a historic treble under Pep Guardiola as an elusive Champions League title was finally secured.
Henry headed to MLS with New York Red Bulls after leaving the Camp Nou and few would have expected to see the veteran return to English football in the twilight of his career, only for the forward to return on loan for one final swansong.
His return provided moments to saviour with stoppage-time winners against both Leeds and Sunderland, the first coming on his second debut and sparking pandemonium inside the Emirates as the iconic Henry turned back time.
Didier Drogba departed Chelsea for the first time regarded by many as the finest player in the club’s history, his final act to crown the west London side as champions of Europe with a winning spot-kick against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final.
That moment was the zenith of an unforgettable career for the Ivorian at Stamford Bridge, Drogba a talismanic presence for a side who became serial winners amid the billionaire backing of Roman Abramovich.
Drogba won three league titles and a host of domestic cup competitions, his goalscoring record in major finals leaving a lasting legacy on the Chelsea supporters, the powerful forward arguably the big-game player of his generation.
After leaving the Premier League he headed to Shanghai Shenhua and later Galatasaray, before following former manager Jose Mourinho back to Chelsea, the Portuguese himself returning to the club after a previous trophy-laden spell.
His return lasted just a single season but delivered seven goals in all competitions and a fourth Premier League title, the leadership and winning mentality of Drogba playing its part in another season of success for the Blues.