Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has described Gareth Bale as “ready to play” and a player he is going to “count on.”
Zidane on Monday returned to Real, succeeding the sacked Santiago Solari, less than 10 months after stepping down as manager, and the first game of the Frenchman’s second spell in charge is the La Liga home clash with Celta Vigo on Saturday.
The final one of his previous stint was last season’s Champions League final against Liverpool, which saw him guide Real to the trophy for a third successive year. Bale was left out of the starting line-up for that match before coming on and scoring twice, including a spectacular overhead kick.
While Zidane’s return has been seen as casting major doubt over the player’s future, the Welshman’s agent Jonathan Barnett has told the BBC Bale is “very happy at the moment”, adding: “He wants to play all his career for Real Madrid and if it does not work out, we will talk again.
“He will talk with Mr Zidane, take it from there and then see at the end of the season.”
Zidane was quoted by Marca as saying on Friday: “I’m not going to speak about Bale’s season up to this point. There are 11 matches left to play and I’m going to count on him.
“I’m going to repeat myself a lot here, but Gareth is ready to play.”
Bale was not involved in last Sunday’s 4-1 win at Real Valladolid having ended the match before, the 4-1 Champions League last-16 second-leg loss to Ajax, with an ankle injury.
The 29-year-old, who was jeered by Real fans during the 1-0 loss to Barcelona on March 2, has scored 13 goals in all competitions for the club so far this season.
Another player Zidane said he would “count on” is Isco, who on Friday was left out of Luis Enrique’s Spain squad having made only one start for Real so far in 2019.
Zidane said: “Isco just wants to play football, nothing else. We’re here just to think about football.
“I’m going to count on Isco, as well as other players, the important thing is that I make each player feel very involved.”
Zidane was also asked about Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe after Real president Florentino Perez reportedly said earlier this week “I’d take them both”.
Zidane said: “I’m not going to talk about a player that isn’t mine. What I can tell you is that these two players have a lot of quality. I’m only thinking about tomorrow’s match.”
Real lie third in the La Liga table, 12 points behind leaders Barca.
Zidane’s side face a Celta Vigo outfit who are 18th in the table, a point adrift of safety, and also recently changed bosses, with Fran Escriba replacing the Miguel Cardoso.
Looking ahead to what will be the second game of his tenure, Escriba was quoted on Celta’s official website as saying: “It is true that they had a week of bad results that left them without objectives (Real suffered back-to-back defeats against Barca in the Copa del Rey semi-finals and La Liga before the Champions League elimination against Ajax), but at the level of the fans, Zidane’s arrival is exciting.
“Real Madrid have great players and will surely want to give their best with the new coach. But when you play against this team you are worried about the collective.”
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Gareth Bale’s agent claims the Welshman “wants to play all his career with Real Madrid” even after the return of manager Zinedine Zidane, whose first spell in charge of the club often saw Bale dropped from the first-choice XI.
The Madrid winger has endured a frustrating season as injuries have yet again curtailed his involvement and team-mates have begun calling him out publicly for not being a more integral member of the squad.
All of this has led to speculation that Bale will finally leave the club this summer, but agent Jonathan Barnett says his client has no intention of doing so – though he admitted Zidane and the club could decide the player’s future lies elsewhere.
“He wants to play all his career for Real Madrid and if it does not work out, we will talk again,” Barnett said on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast.
“He will talk with Mr [Zinedine] Zidane, take it from there and then see at the end of the season.”
Barnett alluded to Bale’s rumoured supposed strained relationship with Zidane, but also claimed that if the returning manager uses the player in the right way, the 29-year-old could be “right up there with Cristiano Ronaldo“.
“Gareth wanted to play one way and Zidane wanted to play another. That was the cause of it and over a period of time it got worse,” Barnett explained.
“If you let Gareth play the way he wants to play, having a run of games in a row not in and out, he can be right up there with Cristiano Ronaldo. He still has a great talent.
“Gareth is very strong. He is a very strong-willed person and does not care what the press say. The jeering [from fans] is not something that bothers him, he does not understand what he has to do.
“Look at his record, what he has won and how he has played. In years to come, these people who are booing him, their children will be looking at the goals he scored and will be saying, ‘what a wonderful player’.”
The agent also hit back at the accusations that have come from Bale’s Madrid team-mates, as well as the media coverage of the winger in general, reserving some criticism for the British press in specific for not backing a British player succeeding abroad.
“Bale is a very quiet man,” Barnett said. “He has been accused of some terrible crimes like not wanting to stay out until 1am. That is terrible and every paper said that was disgusting. Can you imagine the reaction of the papers here if they saw an English player out at 1am?”
“He loves to be fit, he has a regime and he sticks to it. He is the perfect pro. He is very friendly with everyone, they know what he does and playing golf on a day off is not a crime. If anybody from the club wants to play he is available. He is fine, loves life in Madrid and has always been happy. It is very unfair of the press.
“I assure you Gareth does not read the papers about himself. The press are wrong to behave like that, it incites the fans.
“I also have a big gripe with the British press in that he is one of, if not the best, export that has ever left Britain to play abroad, one of the best players Britain has ever produced and, unbelievably, even the newspapers in England don’t stop knocking him.
Real Madrid star Isco has hailed the return of Zinedine Zidane as manager and says it will be “fantastic for everyone” in the squad to play under the Frenchman again.
However, after he left the club last summer, Madrid’s fortunes have suffered, as Julen Lopetegui was sacked after a poor start to the season and former player Santiago Solari – a Madrid team-mate of Zidane’s – unable to right the ship after his fellow Spaniard’s departure.
A horrendous week in which Madrid lost 3-0 to great rivals Barcelona to get knocked out of the Copa del Rey, then 1-0 to the same opponents in the league to leave them 12 points behind leaders Barca in the table, and then 4-1 to Ajax to crash out of the Champions League – all three defeats coming at home – saw Solari’s position become untenable. And Zidane has been parachuted in to help restore Los Blancos to former glory.
Playmaker Isco, who had become a peripheral figure under Solari as the Argentine rarely picked him in his first-choice XI and at times left him out of the matchday squad altogether, says Zidane’s return is good news for the club.
“We all know him,” Isco said at an adidas event. “As a player he was amazing, as a coach he has won everything.
“It is fantastic for everyone to have him back at Real Madrid. And all the credit for him being back now, when time is tough.
“He loves Real Madrid and hopefully he will lead us again to victory.”