MADRID, Spain, Aug 23 – Zinedine Zidane has challenged Gareth Bale to show why he is still one of the world’s best players as he continues his reintegration at Real Madrid.
Bale, 30, was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up against Celta Vigo last weekend, when Madrid opened with an impressive 3-1 win in La Liga and Bale was arguably man of the match.
Zidane said in July it would be “best for everyone” if Bale left Madrid this summer but the Welshman has been eager to stay and appears to be regaining the confidence of his coach.
“What has changed is that the player is going to stay, nothing more,” Zidane said in a press conference on Friday, ahead of Saturday’s game at home to Real Valladolid.
“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’s start in Vigo came after Eden Hazard sustained a thigh injury in training and it remains to be seen if he can keep his place when the Belgian returns after the international break.
“Bale played well the other day, a great match overall but also his level defensively was very high,” said Zidane.
“He worked hard and we have to continue in this way, Gareth, everyone, they are all going to be important.”
– ‘Can’t wait for September 2’ –
The transfer window in Spain does not close until September 2 and Zidane was asked about the future of goalkeeper Keylor Navas, as well as Real Madrid’s pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar.
Barcelona and Madrid are both chasing Neymar but neither have agreed a deal with PSG, who reportedly set Barca a deadline of Friday to present a suitable offer.
“The players I have are the ones that are here. Everything else, anything can happen until September 2. Some can arrive, some can go,” Zidane said.
“For that reason I can’t wait for September 2 so you won’t ask me about this anymore.”
Navas has lost out to Thibaut Courtois in the battle for the number one goalkeeper spot and the Costa Rican is believed to be seeking a move before the window closes.
“He has not told me he wants to leave,” Zidane said. “I am not contemplating him leaving, not at all. “He is here, he wants to be here and he is working in that way. He has always been professional.”