WASHINGTON • Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has denied disrespecting Gareth Bale, and it was the club who wanted to sell the Welshman, not him personally.
Speaking to reporters before yesterday's friendly with Arsenal in Maryland, Zidane said it was Bale who chose not to play in the 3-1 friendly defeat by Bayern in Houston last Saturday.
"At times my Spanish is very suspect," a frustrated-sounding Zidane said on Monday. "I want to be very clear about this. Firstly, I have not disrespected anybody and least of all the player.
"I said that the club is working to facilitate Bale's departure, nothing more. The other day, Gareth did not dress for the game, he did not want to because the club was negotiating his departure."
Zidane had been branded a "disgrace" by Bale's agent for his comments after the Bayern match, saying he hoped the forward's move from the club happened soon "for everyone's sake".
"He shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid," agent Jonathan Barnett fumed.
Bale, 30, has been frozen out in Madrid by Zidane despite helping his side to one Spanish La Liga and four Champions League titles since arriving from Tottenham six years ago for a then world-record €100 million (S$152 million). He is reportedly on £600,000 (S$1.02 million) a week.
After Zidane's reappointment in March, Bale played 90 minutes in just three of the remaining 11 matches, was left out completely four times and frequently substituted when he played.
NOT HIS NATIVE TONGUE
At times my Spanish is very suspect. I want to be very clear about this. Firstly, I have not disrespected anybody and least of all the player... The other day, Gareth did not dress for the game, he did not want to because the club was negotiating his departure.
ZINEDINE ZIDANE, Real Madrid coach, disputing earlier reports quoting his disapproval of Gareth Bale.
BALL IN BALE'S COURT
Zidane is a disgrace, he shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid. Gareth is a Real Madrid player but if he does leave it will be his own decision, not Mr Zidane's.
JONATHAN BARNETT, Gareth Bale's agent, slamming the Real coach.
He was also denied the chance to bid his farewells in the final game of the season against Real Betis and Zidane later said that he had no intention to bring him off the bench in the home game.
In May, Bale reportedly told teammates that he would "happily" sit on the sidelines and play golf until his current contract expires in June 2022 if he is not sold.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has also previously said that the Real players have nicknamed Bale "The Golfer", for spending most of his free time on the golf course and missing team dinners for going to bed early.
Bale's reluctance to speak Spanish in public after six seasons in Madrid has also not endeared him to the club's supporters.
Should he leave this summer, one possible destination for the Welshman appears to be a move to China.
His options have been limited by his age, potential transfer fee and salary and he is unlikely to accept a pay cut.
Reports have suggested that he is considering a contract worth a massive £1 million per week with Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan.
Dani Ceballos is another player set to leave Real, with Arsenal reportedly closing in on a loan deal for the Spanish midfielder.
Gunners manager Unai Emery hinted the move was close to completion during his pre-match press conference.
"We have been speaking about the possibility to sign one player on loan," he said. "Ceballos is a very good player. I know him from Betis at the beginning, and Real Madrid."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN