'Gareth Bale is fundamental to my plans at Real Madrid' - Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane has told Gareth Bale that he is “fundamental” to his plans in an attempt to assuage the Welshman’s anger over the sacking of Rafael Benítez as Real Madrid’s coach.
In his first press conference since succeeding Benítez, Zidane publicly acknowledged that Bale was “annoyed” at the decision and added that he would “give him all my affection and support” to reassure him of his importance.
However, Telegraph Sport understands that while Bale is not agitating for a move he remains upset at Benítez’s sacking and wants to see how the season develops at Real. What will be crucial is where Zidane – who said he will stick with the “BBC” of (Karim) Benzema, Bale and Cristiano (Ronaldo) in a three-pronged attack – plays him, with Bale wanting to remain in a central role in the team rather than out wide.
There have already been private assurances from the Real hierarchy that they want to keep Bale, and keep him happy, with President Florentino Pérez determined not to sell him.
However if Bale or his advisers were to give any indication that he would consider leaving then there would be a scramble to sign him involving all of Europe’s major clubs – barring Barcelona, obviously.
It is wrongly being assumed that the 26-year-old would simply want to return to the Premier League where Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City would all be keen to sign him.
They would face formidable competition from both Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain with, it is understood, the chances of United, in particular, being able to finally acquire Bale now remote given the lack of certainty and direction at the club under manager Louis van Gaal.
PSG have been closely monitoring Ronaldo’s future at Real with the strong possibility that he might leave this summer, especially if Benítez – who wanted to build his attack around Bale – had remained. The wealthy French club want to sign a marquee European player and Bale would fit the bill, with him being British an extra bonus given PSG’s worldwide strategy.
Bayern have hired Carlo Ancelotti as Pep Guardiola’s successor and he, of course, won the European Cup with Bale in the player’s first season at Real when he scored in the final. Bale grew a little frustrated with Ancelotti’s management last season but the pair have a good relationship.
United attempted to gazump Real when they signed Bale from Tottenham Hotspur for a world-record £85 million in 2013 – and even offered more than £100 million for him. It was too late then but the club have continued to let it be known they would be interested in buying him if he ever became available.
Bale had an extremely good relationship with Benítez who, he felt, treated the players on merit and stayed true to his promises. Bale had attempted to speak up in support of Benítez but the Spaniard was sacked on Monday after just seven months in charge with Zidane installed at least until the end of the season although it seems he still has to agree a contract.
Real held an open training session on Tuesday, the first to be taken by Zidane, in front of 6,000 supporters and afterwards the former France international spoke to the media and dealt with the issue of Bale’s apparent unhappiness.
“I understand that he can been annoyed with the departure of Benítez because he was an important coach for him but he is going to have the same affection (with me) as with Rafa,” Zidane said. “He is important for the squad, fundamental for the team. What he has been doing recently is fantastic ... I am going to give him all my affection and support so that he plays well.” Bale has scored seven goals in his last seven matches.
Zidane also indicated he wanted to keep Isco – who has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester City – and who he brought to the club in the first place when Manuel Pellegrini wanted to take the midfielder with him to the Etihad when he left Malaga.
Similarly Zidane said that he wanted to keep James Rodriguez whose role in the team had become a point of tension between Benítez and the club with the coach wanting to leave out the high-profile Colombian.
“I’m going to say something: the whole team will be important, the whole squad. James and Isco who are two formidable players will be important for me, for the team, for everyone. We’ll see how we do that,” Zidane said.
There will, the former Real player said, a commitment to an “attacking touch” in the team’s play in keeping with his own style on the pitch. “I am a bit emotional but that will slip away bit by bit,” he said of his appointment. “I am convinced of the work I will do day to day with my players. The only thing is: win. Nothing else.”