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 LaLiga 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.
Zidane will take charge of his 150th @RealMadrid match on Saturday! His record so far:
🚩 149 matches
⚽ 393 goals
💪 104 wins
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 St 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 LaLiga 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 LaLiga 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.
“We have worked very well on the idea of a match.”
- Press Association