Zinedine Zidane insists he is “optimistic” about Real Madrid’s prospects this season and has appealed to fans to get behind the club.
Real travel to Celta Vigo on Saturday and have not lost on the opening day of the previous 10 campaigns, but Zidane is already under pressure after a mediocre end to last season and some underwhelming pre-season performances – including a 7-3 thrashing by city rivals Atletico.
After he returned for a second spell in charge at the Bernabeu in March, Madrid won just five of their last 11 games of the season, prompting Zidane to admit: “The best thing for us is that it’s over.”
Zidane promised changes would be made and Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy, Luka Jovic, Rodrygo and Eden Hazard all signed for a total close to 300 million euros, but Hazard (thigh) has been ruled out for several weeks and Gareth Bale’s contentious move to China fell through.
Other high-profile targets such as Paul Pogba and Neymar seem unlikely to make the move and boost Real’s bid to win the title for just the second time in eight years.
“He plays for Manchester United and you have to respect that,” Zidane said of Pogba in his pre-match press conference.
“We’re here thinking about tomorrow’s game. Neymar is not a Real Madrid player and I just said that the important players are the ones who are here.”
As for Welsh star Bale, Zidane added: “It seemed he was leaving and now he’s here with us. The dynamics and things change, but I will count on him.
“He has a good record and is an important player and I hope that all the players want to make it difficult for me to pick the team.
“When things don’t go how they should or the results are not what they wanted, people will always talk about it.
“I’d like to say to the fans that this is just the beginning, we need the fans that are always behind the team and we’re going to try to give them what they want by playing good football, and that’s it.
“We’re optimistic as the league season begins. Everyone can say what they want about what they have seen so far, with the new players and those that were here before, but now the league starts, which is the big competition and we’re very optimistic.
“We want to make the fans happy, play good football and that’s what it’s all about. Things are going to be done little by little, starting with tomorrow’s game.”
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is ready to put his faith in Gareth Bale as he looks set to stay at the Bernabeu.
The Wales forward was omitted from Zidane’s squad for a pre-season friendly with RB Salzburg, having also previously missed the club’s trip to Germany for the Audi Cup.
That came after the collapse of Bale’s proposed transfer to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning amid widespread speculation his six-year stay in Spain was about to end.
Bale reportedly skipped the trip to Germany, where the Spanish giants faced Tottenham and Fenerbahce, as he was furious with his treatment at the hands of Zidane and president Florentino Perez and felt he was not in the right frame of mind to play.
But Zidane now seems to have changed his mind on the Welshman.
He said in a press conference ahead of Real’s opening LaLiga match against Celta Vigo, as reported by L’Equipe: “It seemed that (Bale) was going to leave but today he is here with us.
“The dynamics are changing, things are changing. From now on, I will rely on him, as on others.
“I will rely on all the players who are here. He has his place, he is an important player and I hope that all the players will make the task of choosing a team difficult.”
Zidane was dealt a blow on the eve of the new season, as summer signing Eden Hazard was ruled out for a few weeks with a thigh injury.
An injury update on Real’s official website said: “Following tests carried out after training today, our player Eden Hazard has been diagnosed by the Real Madrid medical team with a lesion in the recto anterior muscle of the left thigh. Pending evaluation.”
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Real Madrid target Donny Van de Beek admitted that there is a good chance of him staying at Ajax this campaign.
The Dutchman, who excelled in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals last season, was set to join Madrid after they failed in their pursuit of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
But when asked after Ajax’s 3-2 friendly win over PAOK on Tuesday, the 22-year-old said there is nothing certain about his future but is not ruling out staying in Amsterdam.
“They’re a fantastic club, but Ajax are too,” he said to Ziggo Sport when asked about Madrid.
“I’ve nothing to complain about in that regard. There’s a very good chance I’ll continue playing here, but nothing is certain yet.”
When pressed on whether it would be better for the club to have clarity on his future, he said: “I hope so, too, because I’m a bit fed up with all the questions about it.”