Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp insisted Gareth Bale is not for sale following his mesmerising second half hat-trick in Wednesday night’s Champions League defeat to Inter Milan.
The Welshman produced a one-man fightback against holders Inter after Spurs had fallen 4-0 behind. The game eventually ended 4-3.
Amid rumours that Bale could be involved in a summer switch to the Nerazzurri, with Inter offering Sulley Muntari as a makeweight in the potential deal, Redknapp was quick to quash the reports, praising the left-back’s performance on the night.
"It was a fantastic hat-trick for Gareth and another amazing performance from him," Redknapp said. "There won’t be too many in the world better than him at the moment."
"But like I have said before, he is not for sale, he’s here. We’re looking to build a club at Tottenham, not dismantle it."
The game started horribly for Spurs, with goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes sent off after upending Jonathan Biabiany.
And while Redknapp was unsure about the referee’s decision, he still thought the defeat was of Tottenham’s own making.
"I thought the sending off was a harsh decision, but I’ll have to see it again," Redknapp continued. "We started the game sloppy. First minute, we find ourselves one down and then were down to 10 men.
"We were bang in trouble at 4-0 down. Any kind of score could have come. We could have been sitting on an eight, nine, 10-0 defeat, playing with 10 men against Inter Milan."
Man-of-the-moment Bale was also disappointed with Tottenham’s first-half performance, but thought that the comeback highlighted that Spurs have what it takes to compete at an elite level.
Bale said: "It feels hugely disappointing, we all knew we could do better in the first half, we started off sloppy and we paid the price in the first half.
"It wasn’t a lively start from ourselves and we paid for it. But we had a lot of positives in the second half. We showed with 10 men what a good team we are and if we’d had 11 men on the field it could have been a different game.
"We kept the ball well with only 10 men and hopefully back at White Hart Lane we will do a better job and get a victory.
"Next time, we’ll go into the game having learnt from this mistake and hopefully not have a start like that ever again."
Talking about his superb hat-trick, beating goalkeeper Julio Cesar three times into the same bottom corner, Bale was a little on the modest side about the amount of skill shown.
"I had the ball and just put it in the back of the net," he said. "It wasn’t too much to think about, I was just thinking about getting back into the game, but we did that but time ran out on us."
Spurs now sit second in Group A - two points ahead of FC Twente and Werder Bremen, who drew 1-1 in Holland - while Inter are three points clear at the top.
The reverse fixture at White Hart Lane looks set to be one of the biggest of the season for Tottenham, and they still have it all to play for.
By Luke Nicholls