Andre Villas-Boas admits Champions League qualification is vital to keep Gareth Bale at White Hart Lane

Winger has been linked with a move to Real Madrid

Andre Villas-Boas knows that Tottenham Hotspur must help Gareth Bale to fulfil his potential or he will do so elsewhere. The Spurs manager admitted that keeping Bale was "intimately related" to whether they qualify for the Champions League. And, with Emmanuel Adebayor in a rush to make tomorrow's game against Newcastle United, Villas-Boas may allow Bale to play up front.

Bale is in exceptional form, scoring brilliant goals in Spurs' last two games. Villas-Boas conceded that having a player as good as Bale was "extremely difficult", and that without Champions League football next season it would be harder to keep Bale.

When asked whether Champions League football might secure Bale's immediate future, Villas-Boas agreed. "This is where most of the clubs want to be, and where most of the players want to play. It's part of our objectives so hopefully achieving it means we can attract better players and continue to hold on to our best players."

Bale had said last April that if Spurs did not qualify for the Champions League he would "have to sit down and discuss and see what's best for myself". Tottenham finished fourth but did not qualify for the Champions League because Chelsea wonthe competition, but Bale signed a new four-year deal last June.

Villas-Boas does believe that Bale might better realise his potential playing up front. Bale started as a second striker at the Hawthorns on Sunday.

"There is a possibility that we continue with the 4-4-2 with Gareth as a striker," Villas-Boas said about tomorrow's game. "Playing him up front with somebody else can help his game too, in terms of space that the other can create and the link up play. Gareth is such a phenomenal player that he is able to do that kind of role. So it means a player can explore his full potential through the middle. Gareth feels well in that position. If he's able to fulfil his full potential it's something we have to consider for the future."

It is a move that Cristiano Ronaldo also made and Villas-Boas did not shy away from comparing his player to the Real Madrid star: "Both of them are extremely technical players and extremely powerful and pacey. You can see some similarities."

Bale might well be needed up front tomorrow if Adebayor is not available. Jermain Defoe is out for up to three weeks but Adebayor was still in Africa on Thursday morning, although Villas-Boas insisted he was relaxed about the striker's return from the African Cup of Nations. "The player is fit," he said. "If he is able to be ready physically, we will select him and he will be in contention."

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