Bale returns to Madrid squad, Zidane insists ‘no problems’


Madrid (AFP) – Gareth Bale will return to the Real Madrid squad for the first time in five games on Sunday when Zinedine Zidane’s side take on Osasuna in La Liga. 

The club announced on Saturday that Bale has been called up, despite the Welshman being left out of Madrid’s last four matches against Real Valladolid, Real Zaragoza, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad. 

Bale has only made two appearances so far this year. He played 90 minutes against Getafe on January 4 and then 53 minutes against Unionistas de Salamanca two weeks ago in the Copa del Rey, when he came off with an ankle sprain. 

Yet he has been fit for the last three fixtures and not been selected. Zidane said in a press conference on Saturday he has no problems with the way Bale has been training. 

“Gareth is here and I am happy with all the players I have,” Zidane said. “I know the answer you’re looking for but I have 25 players and I have to choose. There are no issues or problems. I am sure Gareth is going to keep working as he has been.” 

Asked if leaving Bale out of the squad amounted to a lack of respect, Zidane said: “I don’t think so, the most important thing is he is here, working hard and he wants to train. 

“There are times when he isn’t named in the squad but I wouldn’t read too much into it. Everyone has a role and Gareth is a player I will need between now and the end of the season.” 

After almost leaving Madrid last summer, Bale has endured another stop-start season under Zidane.

A calf injury ruled him out four weeks in October and November, when Bale provoked anger in Spain by playing for Wales and then celebrating victory behind a flag that read: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.” 

A thigh strain forced him to sit out for a week in December before a throat infection meant he missed Madrid’s success in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. 

The ankle problem sustained against Unionistas was minor but he has not played since. “We talk regularly but I am not going to tell you what I tell my players in private,” Zidane said. 

“We know what he can bring to the team and he has to be fit and ready so he is in the best shape to play.”

Zidane was asked if he would have a problem with Bale seeing out his Madrid contract, which expires in 2022. “None whatsoever,” he said. “He has a contract and he wants to stay here.” 

Real Madrid will be hoping to respond in Pamplona after a 21-match unbeaten run came to an end on Thursday when they were beaten 4-3 by Real Sociedad in the cup. 

Zidane’s team sit top of La Liga, three points ahead of Barcelona, who play away at Real Betis, also on Sunday.

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