Bale shines as Real cast off pre-season malaise

MADRID • Zinedine Zidane has said that Gareth Bale will remain at Real Madrid this season after the Wales forward produced an inspiring performance in a 3-1 La Liga win at Celta Vigo on Saturday after a summer of uncertainty.

Bale created Real's opening goal, scored by Karim Benzema, with a superb change of pace down the left wing and was a constant threat to Celta while also contributing defensively.

Toni Kroos stretched the visitors' lead after Luka Modric was sent off, before Lucas Vazquez added a third late on.

"He's going to stay and we all have to think of that as a positive thing," Zidane told a news conference when asked about Bale.

"We have to focus on this season and nothing else. The injury to (Eden) Hazard was bad luck for us but it didn't change the plans we had for Bale in this game."

Bale was not expected to stay in Madrid this season after a tense stand-off with Zidane during pre-season, with the coach openly stating he was happy for the player to leave.

The Welshman's reported move to Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning last month was called off but his chances of holding down a place increased after fellow forward Marco Asensio suffered a serious knee injury.

When new signing Hazard was ruled out for three weeks after picking up a muscle problem during training on Friday, it again boosted Bale's chances of playing.

However, Zidane said he had always intended to pick Bale against Celta and said the forward would not leave the club any time soon.

"Gareth and everyone else here is going to show this shirt the respect it deserves," he added.

Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois also praised Bale's performance and credited his side for making such a strong start to the campaign after a worrying run of results in pre-season, which began with three defeats in four matches.

"We weren't surprised at all when Bale was named in the team. He played an outstanding game," the Belgian said. "We worked hard in pre-season but results didn't go our way, but the season starts with the first game, not before. We played very well in the first half, then we fought hard together with a man down."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'Bale shines as Real cast off pre-season malaise'. Print Edition | Subscribe