Bale Ready To Boycott Social Media Over Abuse Of Footballers

File photo: Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh striker Gareth Bale (L) runs away from West Ham United’s English defender Ben Johnson (R) during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at The London Stadium, in east London on February 21, 2021.
Clive Rose / POOL / AFP

 

Wales star Gareth Bale said he would be willing to join a boycott of social media to tackle online abuse after former Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry disabled his accounts.

Henry quit social media at the weekend, saying he would stay away until platforms did more to tackle “toxic” racism and harassment.

Two of Bale’s Wales team-mates, Ben Cabango and Rabbi Matondo, were racially abused on Instagram following Saturday’s 1-0 friendly win over Mexico — the latest footballers to be attacked online.

Matondo criticised Instagram for not reacting quickly enough, saying if he had posted images of the match they would have been removed.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, later removed a number of accounts that were used for the racial abuse.

Bale, speaking on Monday, on the eve of Wales’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic, said only a mass boycott would have an impact.

READ ALSO: Czech Republic’s ‘Wealthiest Man’ Dies In Alaska Helicopter Crash

“If everyone did it at once, not just one or two people, I would,” said the 31-year-old forward.

“If it was a campaign where a lot of influential people in sport and other forms of life on social media (acted) to make a statement then I think it could help.

“If that was the case I’m all for that.”

Henry, who had 2.3 million followers on Twitter and 2.7 million on Instagram, told broadcaster ITV that he would return to social media when it was “safe”.

In this file photo taken on December 16, 2018 ex-Monaco’s French head coach Thierry Henry reacts during the French L1 football match between Lyon (OL) and Monaco (ASM) at the Groupama Stadium in Decines-Charpieu near Lyon, central-eastern France.  ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP

 

“People are getting racially abused but, when you see the statement (he made), I talk also about bullying, harassment that can cause mental issues, people commit suicide because of it,” said the 1998 World Cup winner.

“It’s very difficult to eradicate everything but can it be safer? We all know that it is a great tool but a lot of people are using it as a weapon.

“Why? Because they can hide behind fake accounts.”

Instagram took action in relation to 6.6 million elements of hate speech between October and December last year.

Twitter has said it will cooperate with authorities to erase racial abuse and hate-filled posts but would stop short of banning anonymous accounts.

AFP

‘Ask Mourinho’ Why Bale Is Not Playing- Agent

Tottenham Hotspur’s Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho (R) talks with Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh striker Gareth Bale following the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on February 13, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP

 

Gareth Bale’s agent has said only Tottenham Hotspurs coach, Jose Mourinho, can answer why his client has not been featuring prominently for the club.

Bale has only started two of the last 22 Premier League matches the north London club has played following his return on loan from Real Madrid,

“Really, you have to ask Mourinho that,” Jonathan Barnett said when asked why the Welshman’s playing time was limited at the Premier League side.

Bale, in an Instagram post on Tuesday, had posted “good session today”  ahead of Everton clash, suggesting he was in good health despite being unavailable to feature in his side’s FA Cup defeat.

Mourinho was quick to criticise the 31 -year old’s Instagram post calling it a “contradiction” with reality, insisting that the Wales international had reported fitness concerns

Jonathan Barnett while speaking in an interview at the Financial Times’ Business of Football event had this to say about the Welshman’s lack of playing time.

“He’s towards the end of his career. Really, you have to ask Mourinho that.’

“When they say, ‘What’s happened to him?’ – he’s won more trophies abroad than any British player in history,” he said.

While adding that the four-time UEFA champions league winner is near the twilight of his career, he believes Bale is financially stable to support a good lifestyle.

“He’s done very well financially, and he has enough money for the rest of his life. He has a very good lifestyle, so that is what has happened to him,” he argued.

Barnett’s who owns one of the biggest sports management agencies in the world also insisted financial gain was not a motivating factor for the Welsh captain’s move to the Spanish giants.

“We chose Tottenham for clear reasons; the path to the first team and good coaching,” he added.

“We turned down two offers for more money at the time but we spoke with him, his parents and they listened to us and he ended up at Real Madrid.”

 Bale, in 2013, made a  transfer fee move of €100.8 million to Real Madrid which eclipsed that of Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer record fee of £80 million.

 

Bale’s Social Media Post ‘Totally Wrong,’ Says Mourinho

 

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho said on Friday that Gareth Bale’s upbeat midweek Instagram post was a “contradiction” with reality, insisting that the Wales international had reported fitness concerns.

Bale, on loan from Real Madrid, missed Wednesday’s 5-4 FA Cup defeat at Everton after he was absent from training on Monday and asked for a scan following some discomfort.

The 31-year-old, who has struggled to make an impact since his return to Spurs, was an unused substitute in Sunday’s 2-0 win over West Brom.

Despite not being available for the trip to Goodison Park, a social media update from the Welshman a day earlier stated: “Good session today.”

Mourinho was quizzed on the Bale’s availability ahead of Saturday’s match at Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“It was a contradiction between the post and the reality,” the Portuguese said at his pre-match press conference.

“Since the beginning of the season in relationship to everything, I try to be very private and try to keep everything indoors, but I felt I needed to address the situation.

“Probably the post was not even his responsibility, I don’t know. But the post was showing ‘training session great and I am ready’ and was totally wrong.”

Mourinho said Bale had reported “not feeling good” and had asked for a scan.

“He had a scan, the scan didn’t show an injury but his feelings were still there and coaches, sports science and medical people, we can never go against feelings because the player’s feelings are much more important than all of us,” said the Spurs boss.

“So he was not ready for the game. It is as simple as that. If he is ready for tomorrow, he is selected for tomorrow.”

-AFP

 

He Feels ‘Happy’ Sitting On The Bench – Souness Slams Bale’s Attitude

 

Football pundit, Graeme Souness, has criticised the Tottenham forward Gareth Bale for his  mental attitude towards the game after delivering another below-par showing in the defeat by Brighton.

Bale who was given a rare start against the Seagulls on Sunday evening in place of the injured talismanic Harry Kane found himself substituted after an hour following an ineffectual  performance.

Souness was furious with the Welshman’s performance after they lost further  ground on the Champions League spot.

”I am looking at him, a world-class player, he comes back to the club he professes to love and it’s as if he has been happy to sit on the bench,” he told Sky Sports.

 

Tottenham Hotspur’s Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho gestures on the touchline as Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh striker Gareth Bale (L) leaves the game, substituted during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Tottenham Hotspur at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on January 31, 2021.
ANDREW BOYERS / POOL / AFP

 

The Liverpool legend admitted limited playing time as a possible cause but feels the 31-year-old  needs to openly declare his frustration at not being played regularly.

”Now, if he is not happy with that, and that is what he was accused of at Real Madrid, then be vocal about it.” he stated.

”Let the Spurs supporters know you are not happy and not getting enough minutes.”

He however believes that Bale  is at the peak of his career and needs to generate a  fuss at the North London club

”I played my best football at 31. This should be his best years, coming back where he is much-loved,” he remarked.

”During games, subs are being made and the camera goes on him. He is not perturbed at not being one of the players going on.”’

Bale has made just six starts this campaign, despite the anticipation and excitement that surrounded his much-heralded arrival during the summer.

Gareth Bale, Harry Kane Fire Spurs Into League Cup Semis

Tottenham Hotspurs Welsh midfielder Gareth Bale (R) prepares to take a free kick during the English League Cup quarter final football match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at the bet365 Stadium, in Stoke on Trent on December 23, 2020. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

Gareth Bale and Harry Kane were on target as Tottenham moved into the League Cup semi-finals with a 3-1 win against Championship side Stoke on Wednesday.

Wales forward Bale made the most of a rare start to put Jose Mourinho’s team at the Bet365 Stadium.

Jordan Thompson equalised for Stoke after the interval, but Ben Davies put Tottenham back in front with his first goal since 2017 before England captain Kane sealed a comfortable quarter-final success.

 

Tottenham Hotspur’s English striker Harry Kane celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the English League Cup quarter final football match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at the bet365 Stadium, in Stoke on Trent on December 23, 2020. – (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

Tottenham are without a win in their last three Premier League games, including successive defeats against Liverpool and Leicester which dented their title challenge.

But Mourinho, a four-time League Cup winner with Chelsea and Manchester United, galvanised his players to avoid an upset in the Potteries.

Tottenham’s most recent silverware came in the League Cup in 2008 and they remain in the hunt to end that drought after joining Manchester City and Brentford in the semi-finals.

 

Tottenham Hotspur’s English striker Harry Kane (L) shoots past Stoke City’s Australian defender Harry Souttar (C) to score their third goal during the English League Cup quarter final football match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at the bet365 Stadium, in Stoke on Trent on December 23, 2020. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock recently branded the Stoke’s away dressing room as a “pigsty”.

Stoke reportedly upgraded their facilities in time for Tottenham’s visit, but Mourinho’s description of the “very good tent” his team had been given hardly sounded luxurious.

The unglamourous changing area and wet and windy conditions suggested an uncomfortable evening could be in store, but Tottenham were on their game from the start.

Mourinho made seven changes from Sunday’s defeat against Leicester as Dele Alli made his first start since November 26 amid talk of a January move to Paris Saint-Germain.

– Mourinho rebuke –
Stoke were without four goalkeepers due to injury and ineligibility, so 37-year-old Andy Lonergan made his first start since March 2019.

Lonergan was called into action early on when he punched away Kane’s rising drive, but he was picking the ball out of the net in the 22nd minute.

Harry Winks’ inswinging cross reached Bale in the Stoke area and he guided a precise header past Lonergan into the far corner.

It was Bale’s third goal since returning to his former club on loan from Real Madrid in September.

 

Stoke City’s English defender Danny Batth (R) vies for the ball against Tottenham Hotspurs’ Welsh midfielder Gareth Bale (L) during the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at the bet365 Stadium, in Stoke on Trent on December 23, 2020. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

Alli almost doubled Tottenham’s lead when he ran onto Kane’s pass and hit a low shot that Lonergan saved with his feet.

Mourinho went for the kill by sending on Son Heung-min for Bale at half-time, but it was Stoke who equalised against the run of play with their first shot on target.

Jacob Brown’s low cross found Thompson and he slotted past Hugo Lloris.

Alli’s wayward flick had conceded possession in the build-up to the goal and Mourinho was quick to issue a stinging rebuke on the touchline before hauling off the out-of-favour midfielder.

Mourinho’s instant action sparked a response from Tottenham.

Davies put them back in front in the 71st minute when the left-back’s 25-yard drive beat Lonergan and went in off the post.

Kane put the result beyond doubt in the 81st minute when he ran onto Moussa Sissoko’s pass and blasted a typically predatory finish into the roof of the net for his 16th goal of the season.

In Wednesday’s other quarter-final, Everton host Manchester United.

United are hoping to move a step closer to the first silverware of boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign.

Everton haven’t won a major trophy since the 1995 FA Cup, but are flying high in fourth place in the Premier League.

Manchester City, who have won the League Cup for the last three seasons, thrashed Arsenal 4-1 on Tuesday, while second-tier Brentford reached their first major cup semi-final with a shock 1-0 win against Newcastle.

Gareth Bale Rejoins Tottenham After Seven Years With Real Madrid

Bale rejoins Spurs after seven years with Real Madrid. Photo: [email protected]

 

Gareth Bale completed his return to Tottenham Hotspur on a season-long loan deal from Real Madrid, Spurs announced on Saturday.

Bale, 31, won four Champions League and two La Liga titles with Madrid after moving for a then world-record fee of £85 million (today $110 million, 93 million euros) in 2013.

However, the Wales attacker will not be fit to make his second debut for the club until late October due to an injury.

“We are delighted to announce the return of Gareth Bale to the club on a season-long loan from Real Madrid,” Tottenham said in a statement.

“Gareth sustained a knee injury whilst playing for Wales on international duty earlier this month and this together with La Liga’s later start compared to the Premier League means he has had a limited pre-season.

“We currently anticipate that he will be match fit after October’s international break.”

Tottenham’s first game after the international break next month is away to Burnley on October 24.

Bale, 31, won four Champions League and two La Liga titles with Madrid after moving for a then world-record fee of £85 million (today $110 million, 93 million euros) in 2013.

However, he had fallen out of favour at the Spanish champions in the past two seasons since Zinedine Zidane’s return as coach.

The former Southampton winger made just two appearances for Madrid after football’s return from the break caused by the coronavirus pandemic and did not even travel for Madrid’s Champions League exit to Manchester City in June.

“Our club wishes good luck to a player who has been part of one of the most successful stages of our history,” Madrid said in a statement.

By contrast, at Tottenham, he is still remembered as one of the club’s all-time greats.

Bale twice won Premier League Players’ Player of the Year during his first spell at the side, which saw him score 56 goals in 203 appearances and lure Madrid into paying a record-breaking price for his services.

Tottenham will reportedly pay half of Bale’s huge 30 million euro salary for the season, with Madrid still on the hook for the rest.

He will wear the number nine shirt and form an exciting front-three with England captain Harry Kane and South Korea’s Son Heung-min.

“To all the Spurs fans, after 7 years, I’m back!” Bale tweeted.

Spurs are badly in need of a lift after failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in five years last season and starting their new Premier League campaign with a dispiriting 1-0 home defeat to Everton.

Spain Sergio Reguilon has also made a permanent move from Madrid to Tottenham for a reported 30 million euros.

Reguilon heads to London after starring while on loan for Europa League winners Sevilla last season.

Madrid, though, will reportedly retain a buy-back option on the 23-year-old for the next two seasons.

Manchester United were also interested in Reguilon, who played in Sevilla’s 2-1 Europa League semi-final win over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men last month, but were less open to Madrid’s requirement for a buy-back clause.

After an impressive start to his Madrid career under former coaches Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, Zidane’s return to the Santiago Bernabeu saw Reguilon slip down the pecking order as veteran vice-captain Marcelo regained his place before the Spanish giants splashed 48 million euros on Ferland Mendy last year.

However, Reguilon, who made his debut for Spain earlier this month, is still highly regarded in Madrid, which is why they sought a deal to be able to bring him back to the club once Marcelo, 32, departs.

AFP

Bale Close To Tottenham Return, Says Agent

Wales' forward Gareth Bale attends a training session at The Vale Resort near Hensol in South Wales on August 31, 2020 ahead of their UEFA Nations League international football match against Finland. GEOFF CADDICK / AFP
Wales’ forward Gareth Bale attends a training session at The Vale Resort near Hensol in South Wales on August 31, 2020 ahead of their UEFA Nations League international football match against Finland. GEOFF CADDICK / AFP

 

Gareth Bale is “close” to sealing a sensational move back to Tottenham, the player’s agent Jonathan Barnett said on Wednesday, seven years after joining the Spanish giants from Spurs for a world record fee.

The Wales international has been frozen out by Real manager Zinedine Zidane and said earlier this month he was open to returning to the Premier League.

Bale twice won Premier League Players’ Player of the Year during his first spell at Tottenham, which saw him score 56 goals in 203 appearances and lure Madrid into paying a then world-record £85 million ($132 million, 100 million euros) for his services.

READ ALSO: Real Madrid Making It ‘Very Difficult’ To Leave – Bale

When asked about Tottenham’s move for Bale, Barnett told AFP: “It’s close but not done.” He added: “It’s a complicated deal.”

Bale has two years left on a contract that pays him around 30 million euros a year at Real Madrid.

Madrid are pushing for a permanent transfer, while Spurs would prefer a loan move that involves the Spanish champions covering a portion of the 31-year-old’s wages.

According to reports in England, Tottenham are set to pay £13 million of Bale’s salary for a year-long loan.

Bale joined Madrid the summer that Jose Mourinho left the Spanish giants, but the Tottenham manager said he had tried to sign him during his spell as Real boss.

“I tried to sign him during my time at Real Madrid and the president followed my instinct and knowledge and the season I left, he brought Gareth to the club,” Mourinho said in a press conference on Wednesday. “That’s no secret and Gareth knows that.”

Turbulent relationship

Bale has won the Champions League four times, scoring in the 2014 and 2018 final, and won two La Liga titles at Madrid, but his time at the club is largely viewed as an expensive failure in Spain.

Bale reacts during the Spanish League football match between Valencia CF and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, on December 15, 2019. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Real president Florentino Perez’s plan for Bale to take over the mantle as Madrid’s talisman from Cristiano Ronaldo never materialised as his role has significantly reduced under Zidane since Ronaldo left the club two years ago.

Bale started just one match when the 2019/20 season resumed after the coronavirus hiatus and caused a stir with his behaviour while he watched on in the stands.

The winger still has an emotional attachment to Tottenham after joining the club from Southampton as a teenager, where he developed from a left-back into one of the world’s most exciting forwards.

Former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who managed Bale for four years at Tottenham, said he would bring “that little bit of magic” to Mourinho’s side, who lost their first game of the Premier League season to Everton.

“It would be a fantastic signing for the club,” Redknapp told BBC Radio Wales. “It would be great for Gareth to get back playing again. He’s such a talent, such a great player. It’s a waste to see him not playing.”

Bale’s return to playing regularly in the Premier League would also be a boost for Wales manager Ryan Giggs with Euro 2020 to come at the end of the season.

Tottenham are also close to completing the signing of Real Madrid left-back Sergio Reguilon for around 30 million euros.

Reguilon enjoyed an excellent season for Madrid in 2018/19 but Zidane sent the 23-year-old on loan last year to Sevilla, where he helped them finish fourth in La Liga and win the Europa League.

A buy-back clause is expected to be inserted into the deal, which would allow Real to re-sign Reguilon from Spurs in the next two years.

 

AFP

Real Madrid Making It ‘Very Difficult’ To Leave – Bale

Wales' forward Gareth Bale attends a training session at The Vale Resort near Hensol in South Wales on August 31, 2020 ahead of their UEFA Nations League international football match against Finland. GEOFF CADDICK / AFP
Wales’ forward Gareth Bale attends a training session at The Vale Resort near Hensol in South Wales on August 31, 2020 ahead of their UEFA Nations League international football match against Finland. GEOFF CADDICK / AFP

 

Gareth Bale has accused Real Madrid of making it “very difficult” to leave the Spanish club as the Wales forward looks to end his Bernabeu exile.

Bale is out of favour with Real manager Zinedine Zidane and played just 48 minutes of Madrid’s 12 games when the Spanish season resumed after the coronavirus lockdown.

Zidane, who has feuded with Bale throughout his two spells in charge, said the winger did not want to play in last season’s Champions League last-16 second-leg tie at Manchester City.

Bale has two years left on his Real contract, but there appears little chance he will force his way into the manager’s plans.

The 31-year-old almost joined Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning in 2019 before Real pulled the plug on the deal, a decision that still irks Bale.

“I think the club needs to answer that question because I tried to leave last year. They blocked everything at the last second,” Bale told Sky Sports.

“It was a project I was excited for last year but it didn’t materialise. There’s been other instances where we’ve tried to go but the club won’t allow it or done something.

“So it’s on the club, I can’t really do anything. I have a contract. All I can do is carry on what I’m doing and hopefully something comes up.

“But as I said, it’s in the club’s hands. They make things very difficult to be honest.”

Bale became the world’s most expensive player when he joined Real Madrid from Tottenham for £85 million ($113 million) in 2013.

He has won two La Liga titles and four Champions League with Real, but his critics accused him of showing a lack of respect as his row with the Zidane intensified.

He was pictured pretending to sleep in the stands and using a roll of wrist tape as a telescope when he found out he was going to be an unused substitute.

“I want to play football and I’m still motivated to play football. I’m only 31 and feel I’m in great shape still,” Bale said.

Bale has been linked with Tottenham and Manchester United and he will not rule out a return to the Premier League after seven years away if Madrid are willing to sell him.

“If those options arise then I’d look at it for sure. We have plenty of time in this transfer window and I guess a couple of others as well,” he said. “Time will tell.”

Bale is currently with Wales on Nations League duty and will captain the team in Finland on Thursday.

He insisted he remains unaffected by the controversy in Spain.

“Whatever goes on at Madrid goes on at Madrid. It doesn’t really affect me,” he said. “I’ve had plenty of experience to deal with it. It is what it is.”

 

AFP

Bale Left Out By Zidane For Man City Test

Gareth Bale, Zinedine Zidane

 

 

Gareth Bale has been left out of Real Madrid’s squad for their Champions League last 16-second leg against Manchester City on Friday.

Zinedine Zidane named 24 players on Wednesday for the trip to Manchester, where Madrid are aiming to overturn a 2-1 first-leg defeat to reach the quarter-finals.

Sergio Ramos will travel with the squad, Madrid confirmed, despite being suspended for the fixture.

Bale, 31, was not on the list, adding another low-point to a turbulent season for the Welshman, who has hardly featured for Madrid this year.

Despite Madrid storming to the La Liga title, Bale made only two appearances during the 11 games after La Liga resumed, one of them from the start.

He was pictured standing away from the team’s celebrations with Zidane after their league success was confirmed and had caused a stir by pretending to be asleep during Madrid’s game against Alaves.

Zidane’s decision to omit Bale completely from the squad to face City is another clear indication the Frenchman would prefer to be rid of Bale and his 18-million euro salary this summer.

But interested clubs are likely to be put off by the finances involved while Bale and his representatives insist he is happy to see out his Madrid contract, which expires in 2022.

Ramos will travel with the squad to England, despite being banned for the match after he was sent off towards the end of the first leg.

UEFA protocol will allow Madrid’s captain to enter the stadium and be in the dressing room with the players, but he cannot sit on the bench.

Ramos will also have to be tested along with the rest of the squad.

Transfer Deadline: Zidane Quashes Bale Exit Rumours

Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane looks on before during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Real Madrid CF at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on January 26, 2020.
CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane has said he is “not contemplating” Gareth Bale leaving Real Madrid on Friday before the end of the January transfer window. 

Bale came close to joining Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning last summer and English newspaper the Times reported on Friday the Welshman was in talks to rejoin his former club Tottenham.

But a source at Spurs has told AFP they are not in negotiations to sign Bale this month. Another source close to the player insisted earlier this week that “nothing has changed” and he would not be leaving Real Madrid in January.

 

Asked about the possibility of Bale being sold on Friday, Zidane said in a press conference: “Gareth is with us, I’m counting on him. I do not contemplate this possibility.”

Bale was left out of the squad to face Real Zaragoza in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, having completed only one full training session following an ankle injury.

Zidane would not say if he would return for the city derby against Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

“I’m not going to tell you who is going to play,” Zidane said. “The players all have to be prepared.”

There was also a positive update regarding the fitness of Eden Hazard, who has recovered from his foot injury and could feature against Atletico.

“We’ll see but he has been training with us all week,” Zidane said. “He could be included tomorrow but we will never take any risks.”

Hazard has not played since fracturing his foot against Paris Saint-Germain on November 26.

Real Madrid face Atletico on the back of a 20-game unbeaten run. They sit top of La Liga, three points clear of Barcelona.

Zidane Defends Bale After Latest Injury Set-Back

 

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane defended Gareth Bale on Saturday after the Welshman picking up another injury and also said Eden Hazard is close to a return. 

Bale will miss Madrid’s La Liga game against Real Valladolid on Sunday after he sprained his ankle during Madrid’s Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday. Bale had opened the scoring in a 3-1 victory.

It is his third injury this season. Bale spent just over a month out before Christmas with calf and thigh problems.

He missed Real Madrid’s Spanish Super Cup triumph in Saudi Arabia through illness earlier this month and the game against Unionistas was his first match back.

“When he is available, which is the most important thing, he is fine,” Zidane said in a press conference on Saturday.

“The pity is that the other day he hurt his ankle and he is now unavailable.

“He is as unhappy about it as anyone, he would like to be with us, to train and play, but it’s a small thing. I hope to see him back with us on Monday.”

Bale’s relationship with Zidane has been tense in the past and he came close to leaving Real Madrid last summer, before a move to China fell through.

The 30-year-old is not expected to be sold mid-season but a departure could suit everyone in the summer.

Asked if he was tired of defending Bale, Zidane said: “The other day he scored. I will always defend my players. They are my players, they train every day, they fight for each other.

“There is a good dynamic, all the players are desperate to wear the badge of Real Madrid. They all have their own history but I don’t see that as a bad thing. It is true Gareth has had some injuries and you can’t do anything about that.

“You can think what you want but when I am with him, what he wants is to be available, to be with the team.”

Bale’s recovery could coincide with a return for Hazard, who has also endured an injury-interrupted season since his move from Chelsea last summer.

The Belgian sustained a fracture in his foot in November but has begun light training, meaning he could feature in the derby against Atletico Madrid on February 1.

“I cannot say when he will be back but he has started to touch the ball again,” Zidane said. “His progress is good, he no longer feels pain. Starting Monday, he will start working individually with more ballwork.”

Hazard missed almost a month at the start of the season with a hamstring strain before injuring his foot on November 26 against Paris Saint-Germain.

Real Madrid are unbeaten in 18 games and sit second in La Liga, behind Barcelona on goal difference.

ta/pb

Bale Starts For Real Madrid Against Barcelona

Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale is set to start in El Clasico (File).
JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Gareth Bale was handed a surprise start by Zinedine Zidane for Real Madrid’s politically charged La Liga meeting with Barcelona on Wednesday.

Bale has been out of the team for Real’s previous three games, with his last selection in the starting line-up coming against Alaves on November 30.

The fixture had to be postponed in October due to violent demonstrations and there are renewed fears of unrest relating to Catalan independence breaking out around Camp Nou.

After recovering from a thigh injury, the Welshman followed up one substitute appearance with a start at Camp Nou, where the winner will go top of the table.

Real and Barca are level on points, with the Catalans ahead on goal difference.

AFP