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Bale starts Madrid opener against Celta

Gareth Bale warmed up with teammates on the pitch at the Balaidos Stadium in Vigo ahead of his surprise first start of the season © AFP / MIGUEL RIOPA

VIGO, Spain, Aug 17 – Gareth Bale’s unexpected reintegration at Real Madrid continued on Saturday when he was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up to play Celta Vigo.

Zinedine Zidane had been keen to sell Bale this summer but admitted on Friday that “things change” and he was now counting on the Welshman this season.

Bale was left out of the squad completely for three pre-season games but returned for the final friendly against Roma, coming off the bench in the second half.

An injury to Eden Hazard has opened a spot up front alongside Karim Benzema, and Zidane has chosen Bale ahead of the likes of Luka Jovic, Lucas Vazquez and Isco.

Bale was close to leaving in July but Madrid cancelled a deal with Chinese club Jiangsu Suning while the winger’s salary of around 18 million euros a year has proven too high for other interested clubs.

Bale reportedly prefers to stay at Madrid, where he has a contract until 2022, and is not interested in moving to Paris Saint-Germain, despite suggestions he could be included in a bid for Neymar.

“It looked like he was leaving and now he’s here with us, that’s it,” Zidane said.

“The dynamic changes and things change and now I’m going to count on him like everyone else. I said it a short time ago, I’m going to count on all the players that are here.”

Zidane had promised wholesale changes but none of the club’s five summer signings started against Celta.

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Hazard and Ferland Mendy are both out injured while Jovic and Eder Militao were on the bench. Youngster Rodrygo is still gaining experience with the reserve team.

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