Real keen to retain stars as Benitez wishes Zidane well
New Real boss vows to stick with Welsh star despite his anger over Benitez sacking
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 Benitez as Real Madrid's coach.
In his first press conference since taking over from Benitez, Zidane 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, while Bale is not agitating for a move, he remains upset at Benitez's departure 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 Perez determined not to sell him regardless of how much they are offered.
However, if Bale were to give any indication that he would consider leaving then there would be a scramble to sign him involving all of Europe's leading clubs - barring Barcelona.
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.
English clubs 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 Benitez, 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 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 for a world-record £85m in 2013, offering £100m for him. It was too late then but the Old Trafford hierarchy 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 Benitez whom, he felt, treated the players on merit and stayed true to his promises.
Zidane has been installed until at least the end of the season although it seems he still has to agree a contract. Real held an open training session yesterday - the first to be taken by Zidane - in front of 6,000 supporters and afterwards the new coach spoke to the media and dealt with the issue of Bale's apparent unhappiness.
"I understand that he can be annoyed with the departure of Benitez because he was an important coach for him but he is going to have the same affection (with me) as with Rafa," he 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 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 from Malaga.
Similarly, Zidane said that he wanted to keep James Rodriguez whose role in the team had become a point of tension between Benitez and the club, with the coach wanting to omit the Colombian.
Benitez, meanwhile, wished his successor well. Writing on his personal website, rafabenitez.com, he said: "I would like to wish good luck to Zinedine Zidane, my successor, and his staff. To all the players, coaches and staff in both Valdebebas and Bernabeu, I wish all the best and also good luck.
"It has been an honour and privilege to be in charge at this club, where I grew up as a person, player and coach from the lowest categories through to the first team. As a madridista from Madrid, steeped in the traditions and values of this institution, which I learned in the old sports city of Castellana, it has been an honour to work for these colours.
"I would especially like to thank everyone at the new sports city and the Santiago Bernabeu who, since my first steps through the door, have supported me and made my work easier." (© Daily Telegraph, London)