Thu, Jan 07, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Bale ‘vital’ to Real Madrid: Zidane

AFP, MADRID

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring against Valencia in their La Liga match at the Estadio Mestalla in Valencia, Spain, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

Gareth Bale’s future at Real Madrid is assured after new Real coach Zinedine Zidane praised the Welsh winger on Tuesday.

Bale joined Real two-and-a-half years ago for a world-record transfer fee, but has struggled at times in Spain.

Despite renewed interest from Manchester United, the 26-year-old was thriving at Real under Rafael Benitez and Zidane moved quickly to reassure Bale that the former Chelsea and Liverpool manager’s sacking would not affect the Welshman.

“I can understand that he might feel aggrieved by Benitez’s departure, but I will show him the same affection that he had from Rafa,” Zidane said at his first news conference as Real coach, just a day after being appointed by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. “He is a vital player for the team.”

Zidane, a former star player with Real, whose stunning winning goal against Bayer 04 Leverkusen earned the club the 2001-2002 UEFA Champions League, played down comparisons between himself and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola was a star player for Barca before becoming their most successful coach during a trophy-laden four-year spell in charge at the Camp Nou.

“Guardiola is Guardiola. He is an incredible coach, but I am not going to compare myself to him,” the 43-year-old Zidane said. “You cannot do the same thing as another coach. I must do Zidane.”

Earlier in the day, thousands of fans turned out to watch Zidane take his first training session with Real’s current Galacticos, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema.

Zidane is tasked with lifting the club out of its year-long slump that has seen them burn through two Champions League-winning coaches in Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti. They are in third place in La Liga, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two points behind eternal rivals Barcelona, who have a game in hand.

Real were recently booted out of the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player, but they are still in the Champions League and are to play AS Roma in the last 16 next month.

Zidane said that his aim was to win a trophy.

“This is a difficult, but stimulating, challenge. I want to take up the challenge and do my utmost to win titles. I am at the best team in the world,” said the Frenchman, who played for the club between 2001 and 2006.

“Our objective is to win. We have two titles that we can win and we will try,” he added.

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