09 Mar Bale is still ‘crucial’ part of Read Madrid’s plans – Zidane
Zinedine Zidane has insisted Gareth Bale remains a “crucial” part of Real Madrid’s plans despite increased speculation linking the Welshman with a big-money return to the Premier League next season.
Rumours have reignited over Bale’s future since he was forced to start on the bench for Real’s 2-1 Champions League win over Paris St Germain on Tuesday.
But Zidane is adamant Bale is not going anywhere and is likely to restore him to his starting line-up when Real face the potentially difficult trip to eighth-placed Eibar on Saturday.
Zidane told a press conference: “Gareth is not lacking anything. He is part of a squad full of good players. He didn’t start in either of the last 16 games (against Paris) but I haven’t got any problem with him.
“There is no problem with him being on the bench – I spoke with him and he knows what it’s about. I pick a team every three days and for me Gareth is crucial – but there are other important players as well.”
Real’s win over PSG lifted some of the pressure on Zidane, whose team languish in third place in LaLiga, 15 points behind leaders Barcelona, and will plunge back into crisis if they fail to win in Ipurua.
“I’m not here to convince anyone,” Zidane said. “I don’t want to change people’s opinions. Right now everyone is saying I’m the best, a tactician, but it’s ridiculous – if I lose to Eibar they’ll say I’m the worst.
“It’s hard to stay at the top level throughout the course of the season. When you drop points on the teams above and a gap opens up, it’s difficult.
“But in our work day to day this is my message – that we will not give in. LaLiga is not finished. We’re going to keep fighting because anything can happen in football.”
Zidane is faced with some big decisions for the trip to Eibar, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos also pushing to return to his starting line-up after joining Bale on the bench for the midweek Champions League trip.
Isco is also in contention for return with Zidane mulling over whether he can afford to hand the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo a rest after he played a full part in the recent busy spell.
Zidane is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his side against Eibar, who successfully battled relegation this season and have gone from strength to strength, despite a recent blip which has seen them win just one of their last four games.
“We’re in for another tough game at a difficult place to go,” added Zidane. “Eibar are having a fantastic season. They’re a brave and disciplined team and I’m not surprised by their league position. They are going to make life hard for us.”