THEY say never go back… and that may be how Gareth Bale is feeling right now.
The Real Madrid star returned to Tottenham after seven years away at the beginning of the season in a loan deal, but has so far failed to impress boss Jose Mourinho.
The Special One even threatened to send the Welsh legend back to the Spanish giants, after a disappointing showing in training.
In his Spurs hey-day, Bale notched 56 goals and 58 assists in over 200 appearances before his £85million exit in 2013.
But, with a dodgy injury record and a poor relationship with Zinedine Zidane leading to plenty of time spent on the sidelines in Spain, there were already plenty of doubts when he returned.
Here, SunSport details four comeback kids Bale can look to for inspiration to turn things around – and three he dare not emulate.
Arguably no player has had as big an impact at one club during the Premier League era as Thierry Henry at Arsenal.
Few could blame the Frenchman for trying his luck with Barcelona after eight years in North London – especially as he went on to win the treble.
Eventually heading to North America, Henry found himself at a loose end in January 2012 and fancied a trip to see some old friends.
A two-month loan deal was sorted and he reminded Gooners why he was so adored with a winning goal on his debut, against Leeds in the FA Cup.
Henry played seven games during his second spell and left on a high, bagging a stoppage-time winner in his final appearance.
Mario Gotze, like most top German players, signed for Bayern Munich while at the peak of his powers.
The manner of the 2013 switch irked Borussia Dortmund but the player, who was briefly Germany’s all-time record transfer, actually struggled in Bavaria.
Three years later, he returned and admitted: “I can look at [the move] now through different eyes. I can easily understand that many fans could not understand my decision. I would not make that decision now.”
Far from the fairytale return, Gotze managed just 16 games for Borussia the following season.
Things barely improved and the World Cup winner was released this summer.
Returning legends can make as big an impact off the pitch as on it, as Didier Drogba showed.
The Ivorian was far from his prime when pitching up at Chelsea for a second spell in 2014.
Time in China and Turkey had drained more than a yard of pace from the striker, aged 36 as he rejoined.
Yet he embodied the Blues’ return to normalcy, coinciding with Mourinho’s second term as manager to bag a Premier League title.
A talisman around the entirety of the club, Drogba even helped out with vital goals against Spurs, Manchester United and Leicester en route to his fourth league crown.
If any player’s return was set up like Bale’s, it is the story of Kaka.
Departing AC Milan in 2009 as one of the world’s best players, the Brazilian became a classic Galactico signing for Real Madrid.
Like Bale, he had his moments in Spain but ultimately struggled to shake off injuries and titles were often evasive.
Upon departing Real, Kaka was compelled to relive his Milan glory days and signed a free transfer in 2013.
Tearing his hamstring in his first game, he bounced back to score a reasonable seven goals at the San Siro as the Rossoneri drifted to a disappointing eighth-placed finish.
Returning to your old team can often be a bit of an anticlimax… but not for Dirk Kuyt.
The underrated Dutchman headed back to Feyenoord in 2015 on the hunt for one last heroic moment to cap his career.
It finally arrived in his last game for the club, Kuyt bagging a final day hat-trick to seal Feyenoord’s first Eredivisie title in 18 years – which the captain lifted himself.
In fact, he isn’t the only Premier League favourite with a fantastic Feyenoord return under their belts.
Robin van Persie returned to Rotterdam for his final 18 months as a professional, scoring 25 times and lifting the KNVB Cup.
West Ham fans must be yearning for the sort of talents that used to pass through the club, before they were sold on.
Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole all left for success elsewhere – but one did come back.
A home league debut equaliser against QPR provided hope of things to come but Cole was not the midfield maestro who had terrified defences for Chelsea in years gone by.
In an 18-month stay at Upton Park, Cole failed to establish himself in the team.
The Hammers beat relegation in 2013/14 after a strong second half of the campaign, although the ex-England ace rarely featured when they won.
British players heading abroad tend to produce mixed results, as Mark Hughes can attest.
Sparky’s trip to Spain was far less fruitful than Bale’s would prove to be, spending just a season with Barcelona before being loaned to Bayern Munich.
New Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson wanted the striker back in England and handed over £1.8m to sign him, £200,000 less than Barcelona had paid the Red Devils two years previous.
Hughes quickly became a staple as Fergie began to build his first imperious side.
Two Premier League titles and two FA Cups were among his achievements in a seven-year second spell, as well as a pair of PFA Player of the Year gongs.