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Bale ‘not 100 percent’ for Cardiff final

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Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale attends a training session at Valdebebas Sport City in Madrid on May 30, 2017 at the Media Day event prior to the UEFA Champions League football match final Juventus vs Real Madrid © AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

MADRID, Spain, May 30 – Gareth Bale believes he isn’t fit to last 90 minutes for Real Madrid in his homecoming to Cardiff for the Champions League final against Juventus on Saturday and admitted taking painkillers to play earlier this season.

Bale hasn’t featured since suffering the latest in a series of calf injuries that have plagued his time in Madrid, against Barcelona on April 23.

However, he claimed he has paid the price from rushing back from ankle ligament damage suffered in November and that his right ankle still hasn’t fully recovered.

“I am not 100 percent, I haven’t played for six or seven weeks,” Bale said on Tuesday.

“I obviously had my operation which still really hasn’t recovered.

“I have been playing with a lot of pain, even when I came back I was taking tablets to get through games and training.

“The last six or seven weeks have enabled me to rest my ankle a bit and really try to get it a bit better, and obviously recover from the injury which it caused.”

Bale returned ahead of schedule from his ankle operation in February and scored on his comeback against Espanyol.

However, he quickly suffered niggling muscle problems before breaking down against Barca last month.

The Welshman is back in training with the hope of being involved in European football’s showpiece as Madrid look to become the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.

However, he is realistic that he is unlikely to oust the on-form Isco from Zinedine Zidane’s starting line-up.

“To last 90 minutes, I haven’t played a lot of football this year since my operation, so that would be difficult.”

Even without Bale, Madrid won La Liga for the first time in five years last weekend with Isco’s form in the final weeks of the season instrumental to their success.

And Bale backed his understudy to shine in Cardiff even if it means missing out on his dream of starting a Champions League final in his home city.

“I think Isco has been fantastic,” added Bale.

“The last few weeks he has been playing very well, so I am happy for him and he has helped the team enormously at the end of the season.

“Whether he or I start, we will both be cheering each other on and hoping the team win.

“The most important thing is how we perform as a team and win the trophy at the end of it.”

Should he feature, Bale will be appearing in his third Champions League final in four years since joining Madrid.

He scored in the 2014 extra-time win over Atletico Madrid, having also netted the winner in that season’s Copa del Rey final victory over Barcelona.

And midfielder Luka Modric believes it will be a huge boost to have a proven match-winner in finals back available.

“He was one of the best players at the start of the season and it’s not nice for him that he has suffered since,” said the Croatian, who also played with Bale at Tottenham Hotspur.

“We are now really pleased to have him back because he has shown before that he is a player for the finals.”

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