Jose Mourinho admits Gareth Bale is no longer the player he once was and the Tottenham boss has promised the struggling Wales superstar will get better.
The formerly lightning quick winger looks a shadow of the player who moved to Spain for a then world-record fee of £86million in September 2013.
But Mourinho said: “I repeat the same – seven years is a long, long, long gap.
“Which player in the world is the same as he was seven years ago?
“Sometimes they’re not better or worse, they’re just different players.
“For example, you look at [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi, and compare them with seven years ago… they play in different areas, different positions.
“They transform their qualities to try and explore their qualities in other responsibilities in the tactical system of their teams.
“I think it happens with the majority of the players, so for sure he is a different player.”
Bale came off the bench in Tottenham’s last home top-flight match when they threw away a 3-0 to lead against West Ham to draw 3-3.
But The Spurs chief said: “He is working very, very hard. He is improving.
“He hasn’t had one single injury since he came back from the last one. He didn’t miss one single training session.
“To play 90 minutes is still hard, to play high intensity is still difficult, but he is improving.
“He is improving and hopefully he will be back to a better level soon.”