‘There is a lot of noise over Gareth’: Zidane happy Bale’s back at Real Madrid

• Manager backs Wales forward after criticism over flag
• ‘There are a lot of comments outside but I’m not interested’

The Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, has insisted that Gareth Bale remains part of his plans, despite the fallout that followed him celebrating qualification for Euro 2020 behind a Wales flag that featured the slogan: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.”

The flag was inspired by remarks made by the former Madrid player and sporting director Pedja Mijatovic who said his impression is that Madrid lie at the bottom of Bale’s priorities. It was also designed as a pointed joke aimed at a perceived media agenda against him.

Bale had said that he found “Wales, golf, Madrid” chants “hilarious”, but many in Spain have not seen the funny side and the fallout has been intense. The club was not impressed, some fans have expressed anger and many in the media have gone so far as to demand he does not play for Madrid again. But Zidane sought to downplay the importance, and highlighted Bale’s role in the club’s success. He has won four Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Zidane will not, to judge by his words, banish Bale from the team, although he remained non-committal on what role the Welshman will play between now and the end of the season, or what will happen in the future.

“There is a lot of noise over the Gareth thing, but in the end the most important thing for me as a coach and him as a player is to focus on the football,” Zidane said.

“Everyone has an opinion, everyone has their own thoughts, and [the reaction] is too much already. He went to join his national team, he played and now we get him back again, and we’re delighted to have him back. He has given a lot to the club and I am only going to look at sporting issues. There are a lot of comments outside but I’m not interested. I know a lot of people are, but I’m not.” That was in response to the first question at the media briefing on Friday. When he was asked again about Bale in the second, Zidane insisted, a little sharply: “I’m not going to answer any more questions about him. You do what you want but I’m just going to say the same thing so you’re better not to.”

In fact, there would be five more. Asked if he thought that Bale had shown a lack of respect to the club, if he had mocked Real Madrid, Zidane replied: “I don’t know. I am not going to get into that. It’s not my role. Everyone can have their opinion, but he is my player, I am coach of Madrid and that is what interests me. The rest of it, that’s up to everyone to have their own view.”

Asked if Bale would be a starter, he said: “I’m not going to answer that, but we know what he can give us and there are a lot of games. I will be counting on all my players, as ever. I will use them all.”

And asked if he thought Bale would leave, he replied: “What I can say is that he’s fine, he’s back with us after his injury, and now he is available and that’s what matters to me. If he goes one day, he will explain but all I can say now is that he is available and I am happy for the team.”

Zidane said he had spoken to Bale since his return but made no indication that they had discussed the incident with any depth, describing the conversation as like those he has with “every player”.

“We say hello, talk about what happens on the pitch and that’s that,” he said, “I’m not interested in what happens outside, only what happens inside, but he’s fine and he has trained well.”

It was put to Zidane that Bale looks happier with Wales. “The only thing maybe is the language,” he said. “When he scored that overhead kick in the Champions League final [against Liverpool in 2018] he looked very, very, very happy to me – and he did that with Madrid.”


Sid Lowe in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

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