Zinedine Zidane has categorically denied accusations he has disrespected Gareth Bale – and says the Welshman did not play against Bayern Munich last weekend because he did not want to.
The Real Madrid boss told reporters that he would always back his players, after facing criticism over comments about Bale’s potential departure from the club.
“I haven’t shown a lack of respect towards anyone and particularly not towards a player,” he said.
“I’ve always said the same thing: the players are the most important ones in all of this. Whenever there’s a player involved, I’ll always back them.”
Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett had called Zidane a “disgrace” after the Frenchman revealed transfer talks were under way with an unnamed club.
Zidane said on Sunday that the Spanish side were “working on his (Bale’s) departure”, adding that he hoped a deal could be struck soon “for everyone’s sake”.
In response, Barnett told ESPN FC: “Zidane is a disgrace to speak like that about someone who has done so much for Real.
“If and when Gareth goes it will be because it is in the best interest of Gareth and nothing to do with Zidane pushing.”
At a press conference on Monday, however, ahead of Real Madrid’s International Champions Cup clash with Arsenal, Zidane said he wanted to be “very clear” about the situation.
“What I said the other day is that the club was working on his exit,” he said.
“Gareth didn’t come on (against Bayern Munich) because he didn’t want to,” he added.
“He said that the club was working on his exit and that’s why he didn’t come on.
“Gareth is a Real Madrid player, he’ll train as normal today and we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow.”
Zidane on whether Bale will face Arsenal
Pressed on whether Bale had asked not to play against Arsenal on Tuesday, he added: “No, he’ll train as usual today and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. You know all about the situation.
“The club is doing what it has to and that’s all there is to it. Bale is currently part of the squad and I respect that. That’s the most important thing for me.”
Despite being hit by a series of injuries, Bale has helped the Spanish powerhouses win four Champions League titles, the domestic league title and a host of other trophies.
However, his future at the Bernabeu has been the subject of plenty of speculation in recent years and Zidane said an exit was “for the best for everyone”.
Any departure would come six years after Bale arrived from Tottenham in a then world-record £85million deal.
It is understood long-term admirers Manchester United are not interested in the Wales international and a return to Spurs looks unlikely, but odds on a move to German giants Bayern Munich are shortening, while there is growing talk he could be set for a lucrative move to China.