Gareth Bale's Real Madrid winner bittersweet for Tim Sherwood's Spurs

There was pleasure and pride at White Hart Lane as Barcelona were put to the sword but mostly they wondered what might have been if Bale and Luka Modric had hung around

As if Tottenham Hotspur did not miss him enough, Gareth Bale had to do that. It was the sort of brilliance with which he would regularly illuminate and decide their matches but these days, the acceleration, power and composure comes in Real Madrid white and, on Wednesday, it tore the heart out of Barcelona.

There was a tiny bit of pleasure and pride in many Tottenham employees when they watched Bale flick on the afterburners in the 85th minute of the Copa del Rey final, run around Marc Bartra, veering off the pitch before haring back onto it, cut inside the area and finish. But, mostly, there was just wistfulness.

"His fee looks cheap now," Tim Sherwood, the Tottenham manager, said and, lest anyone forget, it was a world record £86m that got Bale from White Hart Lane to the Bernabéu last summer. "If he is going to deliver them the European Cup – which it looks like he might – then that looks good business.

"He's a freak of nature. When he was running on the track – he had run past three old ladies eating a hamburger and come back on to the pitch and he was still fastest to the ball. Look at that goal, and he was playing against Barcelona. He's had a great season."

Real's 2-1 triumph served to furnish Bale with the first tangible return on his move to Spain and, indeed, the first silverware of his career. He intends to add more, with Real pushing for the league title – they trail the leaders, Atlético Madrid, by three points – and with a Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich to come.

It merely left Tottenham to remember how Bale had made the difference for them and to count the cost. Of his 21 Premier League goals last season, seven were match winners and one an equaliser. That equated to 15 points alone but plenty of the others were important, and so were the nine assists.

"We saw what he did last year and we could do with him now," Sherwood said. "If you put those points that he accumulated last year on top of what we've got, we'd probably be challenging for the title. The two best players on the pitch [for Real against Barcelona] were Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, and that says everything."

Modric left Tottenham for Real in the summer of 2012; both he and Bale had pushed hard for a transfer. "The decision to sell Gareth was made by all parties," Sherwood said. "It was the one Tottenham decided they wanted to go with. Look at Modric as well. You would like to be able to keep all of your best players but sometimes it's not possible.

"The speculation around Gareth was rife – it went on for nearly as long as the speculation surrounding me. He certainly dealt with it and, to be fair, I think he wanted to go. Once a player wants to go, it is very difficult to keep him. Unless you are Liverpool [with Luis Suárez]."

Bale has 20 goals in all competitions for Real and he has proved wrong anybody that doubted his capacity to emigrate successfully. He would rather have a night in with the PlayStation than large it around the Plaza Mayor and his focus has underpinned the development of his game. "I never had any concerns about him settling because he is married to the game," Sherwood said. "He loves the game and if it worked on the pitch for him, I think he was always going to settle off it. I sent him a text on Wednesday night but I didn't get one back! It just said, 'Well done mate, keep it going'."

Tottenham have been left to chase the dubious merits of Europa League qualification and Sherwood to fight for his job. The picture is rather rosier in Madrid at the moment.

"Carlo Ancelotti must sleep easy, mustn't he?" Sherwood said. "He'll go to bed thinking, 'Who've we got tomorrow? Oh, it doesn't matter. We've got Gareth and Cristiano Ronaldo fit, we've got Isco in there who can do a bit and Xabi Alonso who will link from back to front. The defenders, just stay where they are, we'll keep a clean sheet and we'll win three or four-nil.' As much as he takes credit for winning and he possibly might win the European Cup, it's got to be an easier job than Tony Pulis has had."

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