Zinedine Zidane has made an astonishing claim that Gareth Bale has refused to play for Real Madrid in Friday’s Champions League clash with Manchester City.
Bale has been omitted from the squad for the second-leg, round of 16 clash in Mannchester because “he preferred to not play”.
The Welshman’s future at the Bernabeu has been under the microscope for more than a year and eyebrows were raised when Zidane announced his 24-man squad without the 31-year-old.
Bale’s future with the La Liga giants looks uncertain to say the least after making just two appearances since the season resumed in June.
His behaviour while on the bench has also been under scrutiny after he was seen on camera with his face mask over his eyes against Deportivo Alaves last month. While he simulated holding a pair of binoculars in front of his face while he watched Madrid’s meeting with Granada days later.
Zidane claimed the pair’s relationship was “respectful”, but in truth the duo look as distant as ever.
Ahead of the game, Zidane said: “Many things have been said but we have a respectful relationship between the club and player. But all I’ll say is he preferred to not play. The rest is between us and him.”
Later in the news conference, he added: “Bale didn’t disappoint me. I’m not going to tell you anything. It’s the third question about Gareth, I just said what happened.
“I have a lot of respect for Gareth and things should be inside the locker room between the players and the coach.”
Bale-Zidane relationship almost non-existent
ESPN claimed in June that “multiple sources familiar with the situation” had informed them that Bale and Zidane’s relationship had almost totally broken down.
While Zidane claimed the recent omission of Bale from his squads was a “technical decision”, but now the Frenchman has placed the ball firmly into Bale’s court.
Bale’s agent has always claimed his client is “fine” and last month Jonathan Barnett said he will not leave on loan or on a permanent transfer.
“Gareth is fine. He has two years left on his contract,” he told BBC Sport.
“He likes living in Madrid and he is going nowhere.”
Tottenham and Manchester United are the two clubs who have been linked with Bale most recently.