Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Zidane: I can count on Bale, Isco at Real Madrid

Leave a comment

Zinedine Zidane says he’s not going to talk about other team’s players, except that he’s also going to talk about them… vaguely.

The recently rehired Real Madrid boss (say that five times fast) was asked about the possibility of his side splashing mega cash to bring Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to the Bernabeu on the heels of this three-manager disappointment of a season.

[ MORE: Analyzing the UCL draw ]

“I’m not going to talk about a player that isn’t mine,” Zidane explained, via Marca.com. “What I can tell you is that those two players have a lot of quality.”

He went on to say that one of those players, and he wouldn’t name names, was young and French and an absolute monster. We’re kidding, but you get the joke.

Zidane named out-of-favor Isco and Marcelo back in his squad, as Real hopes to stop the rot and build for next season because, well, he cannot have any other aims.

Real is 15 points back of Barcelona with neither an El Clasico nor a Madrid Derby on his fixture list. It’s also 10 points clear of fifth place, so qualifying for Europe isn’t a worry, and Real has already been dismissed from the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League.

Yes, it’s all very, very weird.

Zidane says he’s going to “count on” Isco and Gareth Bale, who haven’t had their usual seasons for Los Blancos, saying specifically of the Welshman:

“I’m not going to speak about Bale’s season up to this point. There are 11 matches left to play and I’m going to count on him. I’m going to repeat myself a lot here, but Gareth is ready to play.”

Could Bale have a future at Real Madrid?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s hardly a secret that Zinedine Zidane and Gareth Bale didn’t exactly see eye to eye by the end of last season, shortly before Zidane’s departure.

Now with Zidane back, questions are being asked, could Bale be allowed to leave, or offered to clubs at a cut-rate fee? If Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett is correct, the Welshman isn’t going anywhere.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In an interview with the BBC, Barnett said that despite some of the optics, Bale is actually happy in Madrid. He also said that Bale wants to stay in Madrid, despite the return of Zidane earlier this week to managing the side.

“Yes, why not?,” Barnett told the BBC. “He wants to play all his career for Real Madrid and if it does not work out, we will talk again. He will talk with Mr Zidane, take it from there and then see at the end of the season.”

Zidane’s frustrations with Bale began due to Bale’s extensive injuries, especially when he tried to rush back from them too soon, according to Spanish publication AS. After limping off with another calf injury in April 2016, Bale didn’t play again until the UEFA Champions League final that year, nearly two months later.

Bale was further marginalized as Zidane went away from the 4-3-3 with Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo in favor of a more balanced 4-4-2, with left Bale on the bench. But Bale was still struggling with injuries and even when starting, he wasn’t able to live up to expectations in terms of goals scored or assists created.

In a separate report on the BBC from Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy offered to sign Bale on a one-year loan move, but having not offered to take enough of Bale’s massive salary on-board, the offer never officially made its way to Real Madrid. In addition, with Zidane (and Ronaldo) gone, Bale had a chance to prove himself and the doubters wrong.

Unfortunately for him, it’s been another forgettable season with Los Blancos. The 29-year-old Welshman has just 10 goals in 28 games between La Liga and the UEFA Champions League, as Real Madrid looks set to miss out on a domestic or European title for the first time in many years.

If Bale is to depart Real Madrid for a fresh new start, he’ll have to take a drastic pay cut. However, he could become a regular starter for just about any Premier League team. If Bale however would rather stay at Madrid, he can enjoy earning some huge money, but he’ll continue to play a side role instead of be the main man.

Solari shares blame for Real Madrid debacle with players

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Amid speculation that his days are numbered, Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari dished out some of the blame for the team’s disastrous season to his players.

“The majority (of my players) have honored this club’s emblem, and those who haven’t have been told so personally by me,” Solari said on Saturday, four days after Madrid was humiliated by Ajax in the Champions League, following devastating defeats to Barcelona in the Spanish league and Copa del Rey.

The usually tight-lipped Solari did not name which players he thought had failed to meet his standards. But since taking over from Julen Lopetegui in late October, Solari has clearly not been pleased with either the attitude or performances of several once-important players.

Defender Marcelo has been sent to the bench, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio are no longer starters, and Spain midfielder Francisco “Isco” Alarcon has seen several matches from the stands after being dropped from Solari’s squad.

Asked about Isco, Solari responded: “Disciplinary questions are handled internally. (But) to play you have to first be in shape and ready to play competitively.”

Rumors are rife in Spanish media that Madrid may not wait until the end of the season to fire Solari after back-to-back homes losses to Barcelona and a stunning 4-1 defeat to Ajax on Tuesday that ended Madrid’s campaign for a fourth consecutive Champions League title. Former Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who has been without a job since being fired by Manchester United, leads the list of potential replacements.

Solari, who has a contract through 2021, said he was still committed to seeing out the remaining 12 matches of the campaign but struck a philosophical note.

“All of us here, we are just passing through,” Solari said. “And in this job that is even truer. But the most important thing for a team and a coach is the next match. It has always been an honor to serve this club.”

That next game comes on Sunday at Valladolid, with Madrid a distant third place to league leader Barcelona.

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale ‘going nowhere’

Getty Images
1 Comment

Gareth Bale continues to be booed by Real Madrid’s fans, but his agent says he is “going nowhere” this summer.

Bale, 29, has spent the past six seasons at Real and won four UEFA Champions League trophies and a La Liga title, scoring 101 goals in 222 appearances in all competitions.

But this season he has become a scapegoat as Real lost twice in a week to Barcelona and Bale was subbed out in the second half of their 1-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu over the weekend.

Speaking to Sky Sports his agent Jonathan Barnett revealed that contrary to reports in Spain, Bale is happy at Real Madrid and will not be sold this summer.

“Despite what the Spanish press are reporting, he’s happy, he speaks reasonable Spanish and there is no problem between him and the rest of the Real players. The people writing these things know nothing about him,” Barnett said. “There has not been one single discussion about Gareth leaving Madrid. He isn’t going anywhere this summer. Despite what’s been reported, he’s content, he wants to stay at Real and they want him.”

As for Real Madrid fans booing Bale in recent games (criticism of Bale dates back to last season and even before that), his agent didn’t hold back in lambasting the supporters.

“This generation of Real fans will be talking about Gareth’s goals for years to come. Frankly they should be ashamed of themselves. Gareth deserves the greatest of respect,” Barnett said. “The way the Real fans have treated Gareth is nothing short of a disgrace. In the six years he has been in Spain, he has won everything. He’s one of the best players in the world. Those fans should be kissing his feet.”

Bale has been linked with a move back to the Premier League with Manchester United and Chelsea said to be interested in recent seasons, and you feel like the move has to happen in the next 12 months if it is going to happen at all.

The Welsh superstar has another three years left on his current deal at Real and it is reported that he earns over $460,000 per week. If he wanted the same wages at a Premier League club, he would be the highest-earner at the club. Considering he is nearing the age of 30, unless Real let him leave for a small transfer fee then a lot of clubs may not see huge value in this deal.

It is more likely Bale will remain at Real until 2022 and then reassess his options at the age of 33.

Bale’s introverted personality beginning to spill over at Real Madrid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gareth Bale has been a lightning rod for Real Madrid fans over the last few years, constantly sparking debate on whether his play on the pitch is good, bad, or somewhere in between. It seems nobody can agree on the degree of contribution he provides to the club since he joined in 2013.

On one hand, Bale has scored a plethora of goals in all competitions, many of them critical. Most notably, he scored a stunning bicycle kick goal to win the Champions League last season, downing Liverpool in one jaw-dropping swoop. Just this past weekend, Bale bagged the penalty that gave Real Madrid a comeback win at Levante to avoid what would have been an embarrassing La Liga result.

Conversely, Bale is constantly a scapegoat for the lows the club faces throughout the year, with fans complaining that he has never truly meshed with the rest of the Spanish squad. To this point, those wishing to disparage his play on the field as a bigger issue Bale has with the squad had little proof to back up their argument. Now, some of those perceived character issues are beginning to spill out both on the field and in the dressing room.

On Sunday, after coming off the bench to score the winner from the spot, Bale did not celebrate his goal, actively shrugging off Lucas Vazquez to return the ball to the midway line for a restart of play. He acknowledged Nacho, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane as they came to celebrate, but nothing more than a slap of hands.

That was the first real time Bale’s rumored introverted personality has spilled onto the pitch. Recently, players have begun to joke in the media about Bale’s poor relationship with the rest of the squad. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, in an interview with Belgian publication HLN in early February, joked about Bale failing to join the rest of the squad for a late team dinner, saying it was past his bedtime. “The other night we had a dinner with the entire squad,” Courtois said. “But Bale and [Toni] Kroos did not turn up. They considered the dinner was too late at night. We had met up at 9:30 and started eating at 10:15. But Bale didn’t come. He told us he goes to bed at 11:00.”

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a professional athlete who adheres to a strict bedtime, that was a slight window into how the rest of the squad views Bale’s personality. More damaging has been Bale’s love for golf, which has given media critics plenty of ammo in recent months. Local tabloids jumped all over Bale when he arrived at Levante’s stadium watching golf on his phone, and there are rumblings that Bale has earned the dressing room nickname “the Golfer” which Courtois seemed to confirm in his interview.

“It’s very hard to describe Bale in one word,” Courtois said in his chat with HLN. That’s honestly the best way to describe the Welsh international, and the best way to describe the descriptions of him as well. The criticisms of the 29-year-old all seem to be wildly excessive in a vacuum, but put together, it’s easier to see why his lack of togetherness with the rest of the squad may contribute to his early exit from the Bernabeu despite his numerous on-field contributions during his stay in Spain.