MADRID, Spain, Aug 6 – Zinedine Zidane has said Gareth Bale told him he did not want to play for Real Madrid against Manchester City in the Champions League last 16 on Friday.
But Zidane said Eden Hazard is fit to face City, despite concerns regarding the Belgian’s right ankle.
Bale was left out of the squad and has not travelled to Manchester, where Madrid are aiming to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg in February to reach the quarter-finals.
Sources close to Bale claim he told Zidane he did not want to travel, after finding out he was not included in the squad, but was ready to play.
“There is a relationship of respect between player and coach,” Zidane said in a press conference on Thursday.
“He preferred not to play, nothing more, and the rest is between me and him.”
Zidane said it was a personal decision rather than a technical one but would not be drawn on details, insisting “there are things that have to stay in the changing room”.
Bale’s omission adds another low point to a turbulent season for the Welshman, who only started one of Madrid’s last 11 matches after La Liga resumed in March.
Asked about Bale’s future at Real Madrid, Zidane said: “Gareth Bale is a Real Madrid player, nothing has changed and I respect him like everyone else.”
Zidane had more positive news regarding Hazard, whom he says is fit to face City, despite feeling pain in his troublesome right ankle last month.
“He had some problems at the end of La Liga but now he is much better and we have had a lot of time to prepare for this match,” said Zidane.
“I think he’s fine and feels confident.”
Hazard underwent surgery in March on his ankle but still had his minutes managed during the run-in.
“Playing every two or three days made it difficult for him to recover,” said Zidane. “But he is fine now and shouldn’t be playing with discomfort.”
Madrid will be without their captain Sergio Ramos against City, who will start the match as favourites to progress.
“We have a disadvantage,” Zidane said. “But we know tomorrow is another game and that knock-out games aren’t over until the last minute.”