Friday 15 December 2017

Gareth Bale wants to stay at Real Madrid despite Champions League winners' willingness to talk to Man United

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale cuts a part of the netting from the goal after winning the UEFA Champions League Final. Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale cuts a part of the netting from the goal after winning the UEFA Champions League Final. Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic

Miguel Delaney

Gareth Bale says he’s happy at Real Madrid and wants to stay at the club despite interest from Manchester United, citing the feeling of a “special” third Champions League won with the Spanish side in his home city of Cardiff.

Recovering from a recent calf injury, the 27-year-old could only come off the bench in the side's 4-1 win over Juventus, and the way playmaker Isco has been such a revelation in the Real team has led to speculation about Bale’s future at the club.

The Independent understands the European champions would be open to discussing United’s interest as they attempt to sign Old Trafford goalkeeper David De Gea and free funds and squad space for pursuits of Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, but the Welsh star has insisted he wants to stay and that his main concern for the summer is getting fit.

“Yeah, I have signed a long term contract at Madrid,” Bale said after Real’s 4-1 win over Juventus at the Millennium Stadium. “My family is happy and I am happy so, yeah, we will continue what we are doing. As I have said, I am happy here at Madrid. We are winning trophies and I am happy.”

Wearing what was his third Champions League medal - a first for a Welsh player - Bale cited such success as the reason he went to the Bernabeu, but admitted it was a tough few weeks as he worked to get fit for the final and never really expected to start. The substitute appearance in Cardiff represented his first appearance since suffering a calf injury in Real’s 3-2 defeat to Barcelona on 23 April, a problem linked to an ongoing ankle issue, and that he now wants to concentrate on recovery over the summer.

“There's always a first for everything,” Bale said of becoming the first Welsh player to claim the Champions League three times. “It's why you're a footballer, it's the reason came here. It was a very special occasion for me personally. It was an incredible feeling to lift that trophy here.

"I only found out I wasn't going to start just before the game, but I always knew really because I'd only been training for five days with the team and I was really lucky to be involved, to be honest. I've worked double sessions for three, four weeks to get myself ready for this, to get myself fit, recover from the surgery - which still has a little more healing to do - but I will be able to rest in the summer, do some more rehab and then come next season stronger.

“It's been a tough year with a lot of football and the injuries, but the main thing for me is to get my ankle sorted and it give it that rest it needs. I came back too early from the surgery. But I still have finished the season happy, it's a great finish with another trophy.

“It will be fine in the long term. It just needs to be given recovery time. There is scar tissue and all that and it takes time to get rid of it. It needs a good rest now for the summer and some good rehab on it and then it will be fine for next season.”

Like many Real teammates, Bale is also convinced the team can win the Champions League again next season and make it three in a row to establish their legacy as historic greats, having already become the first side in 27 years to retain it.

“I don’t see why not. We have won three Champions Leagues in four seasons so we have to be in that category. All we can keep doing is keep working hard and hopefully there will be more to come. I think we can get better. We are still quite young as a whole team and we have a great squad. We haven’t just got a great XI, we have a great squad so if any injuries come along there are other people who can do a job. We are strong at the moment. We are confident and the plan is to win more."

Asked whether the mood in the dressing room was different since many of the Real players had now won the competition so often, Bale said: “It’s a little bit more relaxed as we get used to it but it’s great, a real good atmosphere afterwards.”

Bale will miss Wales' World Cup qualifier away to Serbia on Sunday due to suspension.

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