I count on them 100 per cent – Zidane offers Bale, James olive branch

By Sports Desk August 11, 2019

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane insists Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have "100 per cent" of his backing but refused to rule out their sales before the end of the transfer window.

Bale and James have been strongly linked with the Madrid exit throughout the close season, but so far the club have been unable to shift them.

James has been interesting Napoli and Atletico Madrid following his return after two years on loan at Bayern Munich, while Bale almost joined Chinese side Jiangsu Suning last month before the move collapsed.

Colombia international James has not featured once in pre-season for Madrid, while Bale missed their previous three games before coming on as a substitute in Sunday's penalties defeat to Roma, a game that finished 2-2 after 90 minutes.

Zidane is adamant both players can consider themselves part of the squad, though he did little to clarify the future of either.

"James and Bale are players of the squad," Zidane told reporters after the match in Rome. "They are both registered, but anything can happen and I, as a coach of Real Madrid, must count on them.

"I count on them 100 per cent. James has not been summoned [to the squad recently], but this can change. Even before the end of the transfer window, everything can happen."

Although the new season starts next weekend in Spain, the transfer window will remain open until September 2, giving Madrid plenty of time to bring in further additions.

Neymar and Paul Pogba are two players linked with the club, but Zidane was in no mood to entertain speculation.

When asked about Pogba and Neymar, Zidane said: "We are with what we have and we only think about that. Our mind is only thinking about Saturday [the match against Celta Vigo]."

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    Zinedine Zidane wants Gareth Bale to repeat the performance he showed against Celta Vigo and prove he is good enough to stay at Real Madrid in the long term.

    Head coach Zidane claimed in July it would be better for all concerned if Wales star Bale were to leave the club, but a move to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League collapsed.

    With no other options for an exit materialising, Bale was a surprise starter in the LaLiga opener against Celta and responded with an excellent display, setting up Karim Benzema for the opening goal of the 3-1 victory.

    Madrid boss Zidane confirmed after the game that Bale would be staying at the club, and he now wants the former Tottenham man to perform consistently to the standard he hit at Balaidos.

    "It was a good game by Gareth," Zidane said on Friday ahead of Madrid's meeting with Real Valladolid. "He worked hard defensively. We want to continue playing this way.

    "We need to improve to achieve good things this season. These are talented footballers who want to play, and I want all my players to play a part.

    "What we want from the players is that they want to remain at the club, want to be here. A lot of things were said but now he wants to stay, we want him to play a part. He' s an important player, he's proven that in the past and he has to do that again, to show just how good he is."

    Zidane has similarly challenged James Rodriguez to impress, the Colombia playmaker another to find himself surprisingly back in the Madrid first-team picture as prospective moves to Atletico Madrid and Napoli have failed to materialise.

    "We're happy to have James back here at the club," Zidane said. "Let's see how things progress going forward. He's happy to be here. There are lots of games coming up and all the players are going to have a role to play."

    When asked if James could replace the suspended Luka Modric against Valladolid, Zidane replied: "We'll see. We choose 11 and three players could come in. And we have 24."

  • Solskjaer: Pogba 'stronger' after racial abuse Solskjaer: Pogba 'stronger' after racial abuse

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Paul Pogba's character and expressed disbelief over the racism directed at the Manchester United midfielder on social media.

    World Cup winner Pogba was the subject of discriminatory posts online after failing to convert a penalty in the 1-1 draw at Wolves on Monday.

    United condemned the abuse and pledged to take the "strongest course of action available" ahead of a meeting between the club, Twitter and anti-discriminatory body Kick It Out.

    Pogba's team-mates have spoken out in support of the France international in recent days while advocating for stricter identification protocols for social media users.

    "Paul's fine, Paul's a strong character and it makes him stronger," Solskjaer said, speaking ahead of Saturday's match against Crystal Palace.

    "When you speak to him he's fine and I just cannot be believe we're still sitting here in 2019 talking about these instances.

    "Social media is a place where people can hide behind fake identifies. It's not down to me to change it but there are so many Ole Gunnar Solskjaers on Twitter, and I know it's not me.

    "We've got to do something about it and the authorities have got to do something about it.

    "You feel sorry for [the social media trolls], they must have problems themselves."

    Solskjaer added: "We need to protect individuals and protect people. When there are death threats and racism, it's serious allegations, serious incidents.

    "Sometimes you get annoyed, what can we do about it as Manchester United? We're not going to ban our players from using social media. We have to spread the good word instead.

    "We can use it to spread good and have to stop those incidents."

    Pogba's role as penalty taker at Molineux raised eyebrows, as Marcus Rashford had successfully converted a spot-kick in the 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening weekend.

    Solskjaer confirmed the pair would continue to share the responsibility but denied the players were left to their own devices when making decisions.

    "It's not that I've left it to the players, we've nominated two and throughout the season you'll have games where they are not playing and it's good to know they're there and trusted to take penalties," the Red Devils boss said.

    "It's not like anarchy and they can do whatever they want, we have a few, last year we had Marcus, Jesse [Lingard] and Paul.

    "It's not left to them."

  • Sanchez talks ongoing but Solskjaer won't rule out Manchester United stay Sanchez talks ongoing but Solskjaer won't rule out Manchester United stay

    Alexis Sanchez is not certain to leave Manchester United even though there are ongoing transfer talks with interested clubs, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

    Chile forward Sanchez was not in the matchday squad for United's first two Premier League games of the season with Chelsea and Wolves, having not taken part in any pre-season fixtures following his efforts at the Copa America.

    The 30-year-old has been heavily linked with Inter, who have already signed Romelu Lukaku from United in this transfer window and are said to be interested in a loan deal.

    It is claimed Sanchez's wage demands are proving a problem for the Nerazzurri, though, with Italy's transfer deadline just 10 days away.

    Solskjaer appears unsure of what will happen with Sanchez, but he was pleased with his efforts in a behind-closed-doors friendly match against Sheffield United this week and does not seem desperate to see the player go.

    "There's still talks with some clubs, but he played in that game and played well," Solskjaer told a news conference on Friday. "So, as I've said, he's working hard and let's see in September what's going to happen."

    Lukaku caused a stir this week when a podcast apparently recorded while he was still a United player was published, in which the striker accused United of effectively nudging him out of the club by failing to protect him from public criticism and transfer speculation.

    Solskjaer refused to become embroiled in the matter, saying: "I'm not going to dive into that one. That interview was made before the summer, wasn't it? When he was a Man United player? So, I think I'd rather not."

    United host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday after taking four points from their first two league matches of the season at home to Chelsea and away to Wolves.

    Solskjaer has been encouraged by the fitness displayed in those performances, having been concerned by the way his players allowed their intensity to drop in matches towards the end of last season.

    "The team spirt is great, we've got loads of energy and passion. You can see that with the way we went about the game with Wolverhampton," he said.

    "I thought our pressing was excellent. We gave them five minutes in the second half and that was it, really, when they had the ball and pushed us back but, apart from that, the engine looks so much better.

    "Everyone's fit and when you're physically fit it's easier to be mentally strong as well.

    "[Palace] are a very organised team. They've got pace up front for counter-attacks, strong on set-pieces, so, of course, we know we have to do all parts of the game.

    "We have to attack well, we have to win the ball back when we're losing it and we've got to be strong on set plays."

    Solskjaer also confirmed that full-back Diogo Dalot is likely to be out of action until after the international break next month due to injury.

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