Spurs still the best option for Gareth Bale, insists David Ginola
Former Spurs star says at least one more season in London would be best for Welshman who replaced him as Tottenham's wing king
A dazzling winger gliding past opponents for Spurs, on his way to winning multiple player of the year awards: for David Ginola in 1999 read Gareth Bale in 2013.
Tottenham fans had not had a player as exciting as the silky Frenchman until Bale. It seems - for now - Spurs are determined to resist any offer for the 24-year-old, with Manchester United and Real Madrid persistently linked with deals worth upwards of £60 million (HK$720 million). Ginola believes at least one more season in London may be his best choice - albeit the easy option.
"He knows the team really well, he can rely on the players and the players rely on him," said Ginola, who will be in Hong Kong this week to watch Bale in action against Manchester City, Sunderland and South China in the Barclays Asia Trophy.
"He's got importance and I think he likes to be important in the club. If he signed for a club abroad like Real Madrid, or if he goes to Manchester United, he's going to have to work everything up again. It's a big challenge.
"In the future, because the money on the table is so big, for [Spurs chairman] Daniel Levy, it's going to be complicated; £60 million or £70 million on the table for one player, sometimes you don't think twice, you take the money."
Ginola was among the first wave of dashing foreign imports to the Premier League when he joined Newcastle United from Paris Saint-Germain in 1995. With British players who have made an impact abroad in recent times countable on one hand, Ginola wonders how Bale would adapt were Real to sign him.
"I think we French can travel around Europe playing in different countries in an easy way," said Ginola, an ambassador for Barclays, "but you don't see many British players abroad. You have to start all over again, different language, different traditions, different way of life, different everything.
"For Gareth, for example, going to play in Spain, it's a bit too early. At Spurs he gets all the ball and all the expectation is on him - if you sign for Real, with players like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Karim] Benzema, [Gonzalo] Higuain … it's a different world.
"Some players can cope, some can't. It's a question of how you feel mentally - are you prepared to face those issues in your career, and Gareth doesn't have any of those issues at Spurs."
If Spurs are to hold on to Bale beyond this season, Champions League qualification is essential, admits Ginola.
"This is so important. If you want to be part of the best teams in the world or at least in Europe you need to secure a place in it every year.
"They've been unfortunate in the past two years, Chelsea winning the Champions League two years ago to take their place, and last year Arsenal were just above them. Hopefully this season they're going to different, but it will be a big challenge."
Ginola retired at 35 in 2002 after David Moyes, then newly installed as Everton manager, decided he was surplus to requirements. If there is any bitterness, he keeps it to himself when asked how Moyes will fare at United.
"What he's done at Everton shows everyone - first of all Alex Ferguson - that he's the right person for the job," he said.
"[But Ferguson] is probably the most iconic manager in the world … [Moyes] has to show everyone he has the talent and ability, and the shoulders to cope with the pressure; being a manager at Manchester United is not the same as Everton. He's got everything, now he's got to show everyone that it was the right decision."
Since retiring, Ginola has worked as a pundit for British and French television, while dabbling in acting and wine-making, and campaigning for the International Red Cross (he was last in Hong Kong in 2000, launching an anti-landmine initiative).
He could have a new role soon, however, after refusing to deny rumours his former club, Paris Saint-Germain, are interested in him as director of football when Leonardo leaves next month.
"How do you know that?" he asks. "At the moment, it's just rumours … [but] there's no smoke without fire, so like the English say, 'Wait and see!'"
Whether he is involved or not, Ginola is interested to see if and how PSG convert their Qatari petrodollars into Champions League success.
"They just bought [Edinson] Cavani on a five-year deal for €60 million [HK$610.8 million], Monaco bought [Radamel] Falcao for €60 million, too … in France it's a different world.
"We're now talking the same language [as England] in terms of money and now it's amazing the amount being paid."