Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho will not give Gareth Bale minutes on the pitch in order to increase his match fitness, insisting the Wales international has to earn them.
Bale's high-profile return to north London has been distinctly underwhelming following his season-long loan from Real Madrid.
After arriving injured he has struggled to ever reach top condition, playing predominantly in the Europa League, and his progress in recent months has been hampered by illness and fitness issues.
He has played just 45 minutes of Premier League football since early November and, ahead of Monday night’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Wycombe, Mourinho says Bale’s efforts in training have to show he is ready.
"I cannot give players minutes," Mourinho said. "Minutes on the pitch is not something that I can give.
"I am going in this direction. We all know the difficulties he had in the last couple of seasons, we all know that he arrived injured and we all know that even this season a little bit up and down with small things.
"The most important thing for him is to be consistent training without problems. When a player is consistently training at high intensity without any problems then the player is ready. Not to be given minutes but is ready to earn minutes and that is a different thing.
"This week he is working every minute like everybody else at a good intensity and let’s see the way he reacts to that load of work and how he reacts by the end of the week.
"If he feels, because it is also about his own feelings, that the week he had has had a positive impact on him and on his confidence he will play."