Zinedine Zidane stepped up his attempt to force Gareth Bale out of Real Madrid this summer by leaving him in the stands for the club’s first pre-season friendly and declaring – the sooner he goes the better.
Zidane gave 22 players a run-out with 11 playing the first half and 11 in the second period against Bayern Munich but Bale was sent to the stands in a power play designed to force the player’s camp to find a new home for the Welshman as soon as possible. Asked why he had been left out he said: ‘He has not been called up because I think the club is trying to work out his departure.’
Asked if that meant Bale, who has been linked with moves to China and Manchester United, will depart from Real Madrid imminently or if it was just his intention to leave him out all summer he said: ‘I’m not going to get into that. ‘Bale did not play because he is very close to leaving. If it’s tomorrow [that he goes] then all the better. Better for him too. We hope he leaves soon, it would be best for everyone. We are working on his transfer to a new team.’ Asked if it was personal between the player and the coach he added: ‘It’s not personal. A moment comes when you do these things. ‘I have nothing against Gareth. We have to change.’
Zidane was then asked: ‘Bale has always said he wants to stay; has that changed?’ He replied: ‘It will, in 24 hours or 48 hours, I don’t know.’ He also confirmed he had asked the club to sell the former Tottenham forward. Zidane said: ‘That’s the way things are. I am the coach and I have spoken to the club. The decision is the coach’s.’ Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, has branded the Madrid a manager a ‘disgrace’ for his comments. ‘He shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid,’ Barnett said.
Zidane’s decision stunned Spanish media in Houston for the defeat by Bayern Munich. They reported last week that the French coach had been told by club president Florentino Perez that he would have to accommodate the Welshman because of the increasing likelihood he will not be sold this summer.
Bale watched the game just a few seats along from Perez at the NRG stadium in Houston.
Just hours before kick-off he had tweeted images of himself scoring two spectacular goals in one of the training sessions before the game. His form and fitness have been good in the first week of Real Madrid’s North America tour but Zidane made his point in the most obvious way possible. He picked Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio to start up-front in the first half with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Isco in midfield. All six were changed at half time after Madrid went in 1-0 down at the break. But things got no better at the restart with Bayern running out easy winners. The only bright spot for Real Madrid was a free-kick consolation goal scored by Brazilian Rodrygo Goes, making his debut for the club. The 18-year-old looks destined to play for the B-team next season but made his mark as a second half substitute.
So far this summer Bale’s representatives have been adamant that with a contract until 2022 the player has no intention of going anywhere. The club have also said they have had no offers to date for Bale.