Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane insisted Gareth Bale will remain at the Bernabeu this season – and then urged the Welsh superstar to prove he is a “great player”.
Bale had looked set for a summer exit, with Real boss Zidane having been keen to offload the 30-year-old, who was linked with Manchester United and Tottenham early in the summer window.
But president Florentino Perez pulled the plug on a big-money switch to China for Bale, who has won four Champions League crowns at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Welsh wing wizard appeared to have been left in limbo, but he made a surprise start in Madrid’s La Liga opener against Celta Vigo last Saturday, with Eden Hazard out injured.
And Zidane has confirmed that he is now happy to include Bale into his first-team set-up again, but wants the forward to prove his worth.
“What has changed is that the player is going to stay,” said Zidane.
“The important thing is the player wants to stay. It’s true that a lot was said about him, by me as well, but he is going to stay.
“He is a great player, he has shown that before and he has to show it again. He has to be the player we know that he is.”
Bale had found himself in the middle of a bitter stand-off with Zidane, and was left fuming by Perez’s decision – receiving no explanation as to why it was made last month.
Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, labelled Zidane “a disgrace” for his treatment of his client last month.
Barnett also added: “It’s simple, Zidane doesn’t like Gareth. There’s no relationship between them. There never has been.”
But the Welshman impressed in the La Liga opener against Celta Vigo, playing a role in Karim Benzema’s early opener, as Los Blancos ultimately ran out 3-1 winners – and he’ll now look to kick on.