Harry Redknapp has warned Inter Milan that Gareth Bale is ready to inflict more damage on them after watching him almost complete the most sensational one-man rescue act in Tottenham's UEFA Champions League defeat at the San Siro.
Already one of the hottest young properties around, Bale elevated himself to superstar status with a stunning second-half hat-trick to spare ten-man Spurs' blushes last night. The 21-year-old's amazing exploits were not enough to prevent Tottenham going down 4-3 to the European champions but his goals - especially a stunning solo effort of which Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud - meant he ended up stealing the show.
And manager Redknapp reckons Bale, along with fellow wide man Aaron Lennon, can run Inter ragged when the sides play the second instalment of their Group A double-header in 12 days' time. "Every time we got it out to Gareth, he gave (Maicon) problems and I felt Aaron did the same on the other side," Redknapp said. "That gives us something to work on when they come to White Hart Lane... (at home) we're a good team and it'll be a great atmosphere."
Redknapp's sentiments were echoed by Bale, who refused to take any pleasure from what was his first career hat-trick. "Hopefully, at White Hart Lane, we can do a better job and get a victory," said the 21-year-old, whose second and third goals came in the 90th and 91st minutes respectively. "The result is what matters and it's massively disappointing. We want to put that right next time."
Spurs rebuffed an approach for Bale before the transfer window closed but it would be no surprise to see an avalanche of mega-money bids for the Wales star in January, arguably more than are likely to materialise for Wayne Rooney. Redknapp refused to discuss Bale's current value, saying: "There's no way that the club would or should contemplate ever selling him at the moment, certainly not in the near future.
"We should be looking to improve the team, not sell when we get an offer for one of our very, very best players. If Tottenham sell Gareth Bale now, it would send out the wrong signals; it would be a club that would be a selling club. He's a player that we hope to build a team around."
Despite last night's defeat, Spurs remain on course to qualify for the knockout stage after FC Twente and Werder Bremen's 1-1 draw saw them hold onto second spot in Group A. That is despite a calamitous first half that saw them four goals and a man down inside 35 minutes.
"Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in that first few minutes," Redknapp said. "It was a disastrous start. At half-time, I said to the players, 'all we've got to play for is our pride and we have to make sure that we don't come off here being embarrassed by a crazy score'. Obviously, no rewards in terms of points but rewards in terms of a bit of pride."
Opposite number Rafael Benitez admitted getting progressively more angry with every Bale goal. He said: "After the first goal, I was a little bit disappointed; after the second goal, I was even more disappointed; after the third goal, I was a little bit fed up."