Gareth Bale will bring up the seventh anniversary of his then world-record switch from Tottenham to Real Madrid on Tuesday with his career in the Spanish capital at a low ebb.

Out of favour under head coach Zinedine Zidane, the Wales international lurked on the margins, barely visible as Los Blancos claimed a sweet LaLiga title triumph at Barcelona 's expense last season.

The 31-year-old is effectively a luxury sports car consigned to the garage, save for frequent trips out with the golf clubs on the back seat.

Bale has won four Champions Leagues at Madrid, scoring crucially in two of the finals – deeds befitting of a club great.

That is a distinction now set to pass him by, even if the numbers below show it was once his trajectory.

AMONG LALIGA'S ELITE

Since Bale's debut for Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid, where he netted a first-half equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal, he has scored 80 goals in Spain's top flight.

Over his period in the division, that places him eighth overall, behind Lionel Messi (275), Cristiano Ronaldo (199), Luis Suarez (147), Antoine Griezmann (129), Karim Benzema (125), Iago Aspas (103) and Aritz Aduriz (96).

Unquestionably, that amounts to being in elite company, while his 40 assists are also not too shabby, putting him joint 13th overall.

Once again, Messi is out in front to a ludicrous degree with 112 assists. His Barcelona team-mate – for now at least – Luis Suarez (69) is next and Atletico Madrid's Koke (67) is third.

Benzema and Ronaldo, his colleagues in the once-fabled BBC forward line are the only Madrid players to lay on more goals than Bale, with 66 and 57 assists respectively.

HITTING THE HEIGHTS

Zidane's arrival for his first stint in charge of Madrid can now be viewed as the beginning of the end for Bale, but when they won the first of three consecutive Champions Leagues in 2015-16, he was in prime form.

In that campaign, which ended with the forward inspiring his country on a surprise run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Bale scored 19 LaLiga goals and provided 10 assists.

That made 2015-16 his most prolific goalscoring season in the top flight, with 16 in 2017-18 and 15 in his debut season, when he made 12 assists, coming next.

He scored his goals at a shade over one every 91 minutes – the only time in his Madrid career he dipped under 112 minutes per goal.

FALLING WORK RATE AND INURY WOES

Fitness issues have dogged Bale throughout his time in LaLiga, with calf complaints a regrettable recurring theme.

Since his opening two seasons at the club, he has failed to play more than 2,000 minutes in a campaign, having racked up 2,069 and 2,581 in 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively.

Perhaps as a result of concerns over how well his body might hold up, there is also evidence of a decline in Bale's propensity to do the dirty work,

In his lone season under Ancelotti, he made 85 recoveries in league games and has not topped 50 since 2015-16.

In that prolific 2015-16 season, Bale played 1,738 minutes compared to 1,792 in 2018-19 However, his recoveries from those two years dipped from 52 to 36. Interceptions dropped from 20 to 11 and instances of him winning possession in the final third halved from 10 to five.

On the latter metric, Bale has never topped the 14 times he won the ball deep into opposition territory in 2013-14 – doing so only once in an injury interrupted 2016-17.

CAST ASIDE BY ZIDANE

Injuries are, of course, not the main reason for Bale's dwindling involvement in 2019-20. His 1,091 minutes in LaLiga are comfortably his lowest since arriving at Madrid.

He last started back-to-back games on February 16. To underline what could have been accomplished between that date and now, Messi managed 11 goals and nine assists - both divisional bests - in the timeframe.

Madrid team-mates Benzema and Sergio Ramos scored eight and six times respectively to stand as heroes of a memorable title triumph before masked spectator Bale.

As what remains of his prime is whittled away inside a gilded Santiago Bernabeu cage, it all seems so wasteful and unnecessary for all parties. Particularly for a player who touched greatness for significant parts of the previous decade.

Gareth Bale has been included in Wales' latest squad despite having asked not to be involved in Real Madrid's game at Manchester City earlier this month.

The forward remained in Spain when Zinedine Zidane's side visited the Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on August 7.

Zidane, whose team lost the game and were knocked out by City, claimed Bale had requested to be omitted and the 31-year-old has played just 110 minutes since February. 

The likelihood of him taking to the field for Madrid with any regularity next season appears remote – even though Bale is under contract until 2022 – while the 31-year-old's wages and hefty transfer price remain stumbling blocks for a move elsewhere.

However, he remains integral to his country's cause and will be expected to start for Wales when they play Nations League fixtures against Finland and Bulgaria next month.

"I've always said ideally you want the players playing," Wales boss Ryan Giggs told FAWTV.

"You want them playing regularly so when they come into camp, they're in that match rhythm. You don't always get that and it's something I've become used to and you have to manage it right.

"Gareth played every game in the [Euro 2020] qualifiers but wasn't playing regularly for his club. I'm used to dealing with that situation."

Liverpool youngster Neco Williams has been called up to Giggs' squad for the first time, while there is also a place for Euro 2016 striker Hal Robson-Kanu for the first time in three years.

The West Brom forward had previously announced his international retirement but reversed that decision earlier this year.

 

Wales squad: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Leicester City), Adam Davies (Stoke City); Ashley Williams (unattached), Ben Davies (Tottenham), James Lawrence (Anderlecht), Ben Cabango (Swansea City), Tom Lockyer (Charlton Athletic), Neco Williams (Liverpool), Chris Gunter (unattached); Connor Roberts (Swansea City), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea), Will Vaulks (Cardiff City), Matthew Smith (Manchester City), Joe Morrell (Bristol City), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United), Daniel James (Manchester United), Jonny Williams (Charlton Athletic), Rabbi Matondo (Schalke), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus); Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Harry Wilson (Liverpool), Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City), Hal Robson-Kanu (West Brom), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United). 

Premier League giants Chelsea and Arsenal appear close to strengthening their defences.

After conceding more league goals than any other side that finished in the top eight in 2019-20, the two clubs have been linked to defensive reinforcements.

It seems both are close to making additions.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA CLOSE TO SIGNING SILVA

Chelsea are close to signing Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva on a one-year deal, according to Sky Sports.

Silva, 35, confirmed after Sunday's Champions League final loss to Bayern Munich that he had played his last game for the Ligue 1 giants.

The Brazil defender has been linked to Chelsea and Fiorentina, but looks set to join the former.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea's rivals Arsenal have almost landed a centre-back of their own. RMC Sport reports a deal taking Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes to the club is done, with the sides agreeing a £27million (€30m) fee and the 22-year-old opting for Arsenal over Napoli and Everton.

- On the outer at Real Madrid, just whether Gareth Bale leaves this close season remains to be seen. AS claims there have been no offers for the attacker and MLS seems the only way out due to his salary.

The transfer saga that is Jadon Sancho-Manchester United continues to roll on.

Sancho has long been tipped to join United, though Borussia Dortmund are adamant the England star will not return to his homeland this off-season.

United, however, are reportedly not giving up.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED HELD UP BY PERSONAL TERMS

Manchester United remain keen on signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho but personal terms and an agent fee are holding up their pursuit, according to ESPN.

Dortmund have insisted Sancho will not be sold, though United continue to target the former Manchester City youngster in a blockbuster transfer.

United have reportedly been given the green light to speak to Sancho and his representative but there has been an impasse with the player's camp over salary demands.

ROUND-UP

- Journalist Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen are still negotiating a deal for star Kai Havertz. While Chelsea are confident, there remains a difference between the two clubs as Leverkusen hope to conclude a deal by the end of the month.

Jack Grealish to United? The Aston Villa captain continues to be linked with a move to Old Trafford and ESPN reports United goalkeeper Sergio Romero could be included in a deal to sign Grealish. Romero is United's number two behind David de Gea and the Argentina international's future is unclear, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reportedly keen for Dean Henderson to challenge for the number one spot.

- According to Cadena Ser's El Larguero, Luis Suarez is aiming to stay at Barcelona. Linked with a return to former club Ajax, Suarez is reportedly one of a number of players who could be forced out following Ronald Koeman's arrival. However, Suarez, Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto all want to speak to Quique Setien's replacement.

- Amid doubts over Pique's long-term future with Barca, Libero claims newly promoted Premier League side Fulham have made an offer for the Spain international star.

United remain interested in signing Barca teenager Ansu Fati, reports Marca. The 17-year-old reportedly switched agents to Jorge Mendes, having previously been represented by Messi's brother.

- The Telegraph says Chelsea are considering a move for Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva. The 35-year-old will become a free agent following the Champions League final and he has already been linked with former club Milan and fellow Serie A side Fiorentina.

Juventus are negotiating with United for Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa, claims La Gazzetta dello Sport. The report also says the Serie A champions are speaking to City regarding Alex Sandro, while new boss Andrea Pirlo is eyeing Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

- Tuttosport's frontpage on Thursday suggests a merry-go-round of strikers. Inter have reportedly told Real Madrid that Romelu Lukaku is not for sale, Juve are in talks with Wolves to sign Raul Jimenez and Inter are challenging the Bianconeri for Dzeko. Meanwhile, Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik is heading towards Roma.

- The countdown is on for Madrid to sell outcasts Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, according to Marca.

Could Paulo Dybala swap Italy for Spain?

The Juventus attacker was close to leaving Juventus for either Manchester United or Tottenham prior to the 2019-20 season, while Paris Saint-Germain were also linked.

Now, Real Madrid are reportedly targeting the 26-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – KROOS OUT, DYBALA IN?

Real Madrid are set to offer Toni Kroos or Isco as part of a deal to bring Juventus star Paulo Dybala to the Santiago Bernabeu, according to SportMediaset.

LaLiga champions Madrid are eyeing a move for Dybala, who has been in negotiations with Serie A titleholders Juve over a new contract amid reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Juve are unwilling to part with the Argentina international – who enjoyed a fine Serie A campaign prior to Maurizio Sarri's sacking as he looks ahead to life under Andrea Pirlo.

ROUND-UP

- Kicker claims Jadon Sancho has told Borussia Dortmund he is happy to stay at the club if a blockbuster transfer to Manchester United fails to materialise. The England international has been heavily tipped to join United, with personal terms reportedly agreed.

Barcelona want to sign Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, reports The Telegraph. The LaLiga giants are eyeing a cash-plus-player deal to try to prise the Portugal international to Camp Nou.

- Premier League champions Liverpool are poised to sign Olympiacos left-back Kostas Tsimikas, according to widespread reports. Having failed to strike a deal with Norwich City for Jamal Lewis, Liverpool are close to prising Tsimikas from the Greek powerhouse. Meanwhile, The Sun says Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are targeting a shock £35million swoop for Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks.

- The front page of Monday's edition of Marca says Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane must sell before he is able to sign players ahead of the 2020-21 season. Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez are two players unwanted in the Spanish capital as Madrid continue to be linked with the likes of PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe, Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga.

- AS Diario reports Villarreal are on the verge of signing Valencia pair Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin. Valencia captain Parejo and team-mate Coquelin have been told they are free to leave Mestalla.

Napoli have joined the race to sign Madrid full-back Sergio Reguilon claims Sky Sport Italia. On loan at Sevilla, Reguilon has been linked to Chelsea and Everton.

- According to Calciomercato, Inter are interested in Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. However, salary demands may prove problematic amid talk of a swap deal involving Inter defender Milan Skriniar.

Gareth Bale was omitted from Real Madrid's squad to face Manchester City in the Champions League because he did not want to play, according to Zinedine Zidane.

On Wednesday, Madrid named a 24-man group to travel to the Etihad Stadium and while captain Sergio Ramos was included – despite the fact he cannot play in the second leg due to suspension – there was no place for Bale.

The Welshman scored twice in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool two seasons ago but will play no part as Madrid seek to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's side in the last-16 tie on Friday.

Bale has started just once since February – and has been restricted to 110 minutes combined since Madrid's campaign resumed in June – and Zidane explained it was the 31-year-old's decision not to be involved in Manchester.

"I will explain because many things are said," Zidane told reporters in a news conference.

"We have a relationship of respect between player and coach, that is clear. The only thing I can say is that he has decided not to play, and the rest is between him and me."

Zidane grew increasingly frustrated at answering questions on Bale, who may appear to have no future at Madrid but remains under contract until 2022.

"I have already answered before about the situation. The rest is a conversation between the player and the coach, and I am not going to tell you anything," Zidane added.

The fourth and final question on Bale – surrounding his future with Los Blancos – was met with a straight bat.

"Gareth Bale is a Real Madrid player, nothing changes. I respect that," Zidane replied.

"He has decided not to play. All of us here are focused on tomorrow's game."

Eden Hazard is part of Madrid's travelling party, though he has experienced an injury-hit debut season in the Spanish capital.

He was out between November and February due to an ankle problem and then sustained a broken ankle bone, with the congested end-of-season LaLiga run-in causing him further discomfort, yet Zidane has been encouraged by his condition since.

"He has had some discomfort about the end of LaLiga, but I think he is much better now, we have had time to prepare for the game and now he is confident," the Madrid boss added.

"I think there was a minor setback after that second injury but now hopefully he can play and hopefully there will be nothing there to hold him back."

Gareth Bale has been left out of the Real Madrid squad for the Champions League trip to Manchester City.

The Wales star was not named in the 24-man travelling group, but captain Sergio Ramos, who is suspended for the last-16 second leg, was included.

James Rodriguez was also left out, along with striker Mariano Diaz, who tested positive for coronavirus last week and has been self-isolating.

Eden Hazard is in the squad despite concerns over his fitness following an ankle injury, while Luka Jovic, who has started just one Champions League game for Madrid, is also included.

Madrid are trailing 2-1 from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bale's stock under head coach Zinedine Zidane appears to have dropped to its lowest point in 2020, the former Tottenham forward having featured just twice since the Spanish season resumed in June.

Team-mate Casemiro insisted this week that Bale still has the support of Madrid's coaches and players despite going through "not the best time in his career".

Bale has caused some consternation in Spain for his attitude on the sidelines in recent weeks. He has often appeared bored during games and was distant from some of the title celebrations when Madrid were crowned champions last month.

However, his agent, Jonathan Barnett, told BBC Sport that the player "likes living in Madrid and he is going nowhere", and is keen to see out the remaining two years on his contract.

Toni Kroos recognises Gareth Bale's marginal role at Real Madrid is "unsatisfactory for everyone". 

Wales winger Bale made just 16 LaLiga appearances, including only 12 starts, and scored twice as Madrid won the title this season, ending Barcelona's recent run of dominance in Spain.

The 31-year-old was fit for much of the campaign but fell out of favour with head coach Zinedine Zidane. 

Bale's agent, Jonathan Barnett, insists his client - once the world's most expensive player - is not looking to depart Madrid, yet his prospects of a return to the first XI appear slim. 

The former Tottenham player almost left for Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning last year, and team-mate Kroos wonders if he is "still a bit mad" the move fell through. 

"There's no getting around it. The situation is unsatisfactory for everyone," Kroos told the Lauschangriff podcast. "He certainly wasn't brought in to play as little as he does now. 

"I believe that he wanted to leave last summer in principle and that the club agreed at first and then said no.

"I don't know if he's still a bit mad about that. It's a difficult subject.

"It's certainly not as extreme as is said [in the media]. Everything is okay in the team. I've known him for six years and we've won some pretty big things together."

Manchester United are reportedly keeping an eye on Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak, while Real Madrid want to raise €180million in transfer funds.

Amid pressure on David de Gea, United could look elsewhere for a goalkeeper.

It seems one of the world's best is on their radar.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD CONSIDER OBLAK

Manchester United are keeping tabs on Atletico Madrid star Oblak, according to The Sun.

Oblak, 27, is widely considered one of the world's best goalkeepers after starring across six seasons at Atletico.

The speculation comes with De Gea under pressure at Old Trafford following several mistakes this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid want to raise funds in the transfer market. Marca reports they are looking to make €180m, with James Rodriguez and Luka Jovic potentially making exits. It says a potential move for Gareth Bale, who is contracted until 2022, is more complicated.

- Kingsley Coman is reportedly a target for Manchester United. However, Sport Bild reports Bayern Munich rejected an approach from Manchester City for the attacker and they would do likewise to United.

- At rivals Barcelona, the focus seems to be on renewing some young stars. Sport reports the LaLiga giants are trying to re-sign Ansu Fati, Ronald Araujo, Riqui Puig and Alex Collado.

- Manchester United want to resolve the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling. Sky Sports reports the Premier League club will not extend the loans of Sanchez, at Inter, and Smalling, at Roma, but are looking to seal permanent deals. Meanwhile, the Daily Record says United want to remain informed about offers for Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes.

- Amid speculation over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal may need a forward this close season. Le 10 Sport reports the Premier League club are considering a move for Wolves star Raul Jimenez.

- Victor Osimhen is set for Napoli. CalcioMercato reports a deal for the Lille forward is done and Napoli will pay €60m for the Nigeria international.

- After six seasons at Liverpool, Dejan Lovren is reportedly set for an exit. The Guardian reports the Croatian defender is close to joining Zenit for €12m (£10.9m).

Gareth Bale is "going nowhere" amid ongoing speculation over his Real Madrid future, according to agent Jonathan Barnett.

Bale found himself out of favour as Madrid dethroned bitter rivals Barcelona as LaLiga champions this season, making just two appearances since the 2019-20 campaign resumed last month following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The star forward, whose behaviour has been criticised, featured in 16 league matches this term after he was left out of Zinedine Zidane's squad to face Leganes on the final day of the season on Sunday.

Despite struggling for game time, Barnett insisted his client Bale has no plans to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

"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.

"He is still as good as anyone else in the team. It's up to Zinedine Zidane.

"Of course there's been interest but there's hardly a club in the world which can afford him.

"It's a great loss that he's not in the Real Madrid team at the moment but he will not leave."

Bale has enjoyed great success since joining Madrid from Tottenham in 2013, scoring over 100 goals and winning four Champions League titles to go with a pair of LaLiga trophies.

Amid talk of a fractious relationship with head coach Zidane, Barnett said: "Gareth is not looking to outlast Zinedine Zidane. Mr Zidane has been very successful.

"There's no hatred. Mr Zidane just does not want to play him. Gareth trains every day and he trains well."

Bale was close to leaving Madrid last year but a proposed transfer to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning collapsed.

The 31-year-old Wales international is contracted to Madrid until 2022 but Bale will not consider a loan move ahead of the postponed European Championship in 2021.

"He wants to play for Wales at Euro 2020. He always wants to play well for Wales," Barnett added.

"Gareth is one of the best players in the world. The best players in the world do not go out on loan."

Zinedine Zidane said Gareth Bale's absence from Real Madrid's squad for their draw with Leganes was a "technical decision".

Bale was left out of the squad as Madrid drew 2-2 with Leganes on Sunday, having already clinched the LaLiga title.

The Wales international seems set to leave the LaLiga giants after making just two appearances since the season resumed last month, with his behaviour while on the bench being questioned.

James Rodriguez has been left out of the past five matchday squads – with personal reasons cited initially – and Zidane discussed the duo after finishing the LaLiga campaign.

"You know what happened with one [James]. The other is a technical decision," the Madrid coach said, via AS.

Luka Jovic, meanwhile, came off the bench for what was just his second appearance since the coronavirus-enforced break.

The forward has been linked with a move away after scoring just twice in 26 appearances in his first season in Madrid.

"As always when I talk about Luka, what I say is that he is young," Zidane said.

"He has talent, but it has been a difficult season for him, especially with injuries.

"Of course things that have happened to him, I trust him. We will see next year."

Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have been omitted from Real Madrid's squad to face Leganes.

Zinedine Zidane's side will conclude their triumphant LaLiga campaign on Sunday, unblemished form since the resumption seeing off bitter rivals Barcelona with a game to spare.

Los Blancos' 34th Spanish title has been secured largely without the input of Hazard, Bale and James.

Hazard has struggled for form and fitness since joining from Chelsea for €100million before the start of the season.

The 29-year-old Belgium international was still recently feeling the effects of surgery on a broken foot and, although he started for the first time in five matches in the title-clinching 2-1 win over Villarreal, he will miss out this weekend.

Hazard is still expected to have a productive future at Madrid, although it is hard to say the same for Bale and James.

Wales forward Bale has become an increasingly marginalised figure since Zidane's return last term. He has appeared just twice since the restart and the 31-year-old's absence from Sunday's travelling party will end a run of six matches as an unused substitute.

It will be James' fifth game in a row in which he has not been involved. The Colombia playmaker spent the previous two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich and his only appearance of 2020 came when he was handed a surprise start in last month's 2-1 win at Real Sociedad.

James, 29, has a year left on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Bale's terms run through until 2022.

After facing Leganes - who sit third bottom and must extend their superb late-season form to four wins from five unbeaten matches to have a chance of survival - Madrid travel to face Manchester City on August 7, when they will attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the Champions League last-16 tie.

Dimitar Berbatov has hit out at Real Madrid's Gareth Bale for his "unprofessional and disrespectful" behaviour in the Spanish capital.

Bale has found himself out of favour at Madrid, with the star forward playing just 100 minutes of LaLiga action since the league returned from its three-month hiatus in June amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The four-time Champions League winner sparked uproar when he was seen on camera with his face mask over his eyes before turning and laughing with team-mates from the stands during Madrid's 2-0 victory over Deportivo Alaves last week.

Bale – a substitute – then simulated holding a pair of binoculars in front of his face while he watched Madrid's 2-1 win at Granada and former Tottenham team-mate Berbatov criticised the Welsh outcast.

"Gareth Bale is in the headlines again for pretending to sleep in the stands when he found out he was going to be an unused substitute against Granada," Berbatov wrote in his column for Betfair.

"When I saw it, I couldn't believe it. I watched him put his mask over his eyes and pretend to be asleep. I cannot support that. It is unprofessional and disrespectful to Real Madrid.

"I love watching Bale play and I can feel his pain at not playing because I have been in the same situation. But that kind of reaction is going too far.

"Madrid need to find a solution to the Bale saga. It's not good for Bale or the team and it is bad publicity. I do feel his pain, I have been in his shoes of not playing and nobody is probably giving him any answers, then you are provoked to do those kinds of things, but I cannot support what he did.

"The only solution is for Bale to leave Real Madrid. If I was a Real Madrid fan and saw a player disrespecting the team like that, it would be too much. Bale should be asking for a solution, even if it is a loan move. It was a show of power, it was if he was saying: 'Play me or I'll do whatever I want.' That doesn't sit right with me."

Zinedine Zidane brushed off a question about Gareth Bale's future at Real Madrid, insisting the team is united.

Bale has played just 100 minutes for Madrid in LaLiga since the competition returned from its three-month hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite not spending much time on the pitch, the 30-year-old, who remained at the club after a move to Jiangsu Suning broke down following Zidane's return last year, has continued to make headlines.

During the 2-0 victory over Deportivo Alaves last week he was seen on camera with his face mask over his eyes, before turning and laughing with his team-mates.

He then simulated holding a pair of binoculars in front of his face while he watched Madrid's meeting with Granada on Monday from the stands at Los Carmenes.

Asked if Bale should leave Madrid, Zidane told a news conference: "What a question.

"You try to put things between us, but you won't be able to. Every day you ask the same thing. You can do it; you have the right to ask what you want.

"But we're united. Gareth, James [Rodriguez], everyone."

Madrid will be crowned LaLiga champions if they beat Villarreal at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Thursday.

Zinedine Zidane believes Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos should retire at the Santiago Bernabeu amid question marks over his future.

Ramos' contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, by which time he will be 35, and it remains to be seen whether the star defender will remain in the Spanish capital.

The Spain skipper showed he is far from finished with another inspiring performance in Madrid's 2-0 LaLiga victory over Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Ramos – who took his season tally to nine goals, becoming the first defender to score eight or more goals in a single LaLiga campaign since Ezequiel Garay in 2006-07 – scored a stunning 56th-minute free-kick to ensure Madrid returned to the top of the table midweek.

"Sergio belongs here as a player," Madrid head coach Zidane told reporters afterwards.

"He's been here for years and he should retire here. It's what I think and I'll stand by it."

Vinicius Junior broke the deadlock for Madrid in the 19th minute at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, where Ramos curled a set-piece past Manolo Reina 11 minutes into the second half.

A fourth consecutive victory since the coronavirus-enforced break saw Madrid move back to the summit due to their superior head-to-head record against bitter rivals Barcelona.

"We need to have the ball," Zidane said. "The setup isn't the most important thing for me, it's more about what we do on the pitch with the ball. We can do better, but I'm satisfied with what I saw and what these players are doing is not at all easy. 

"That's four wins in a row, but the standout feature for us today was our defensive solidity all round. We can get better going forward and that's what we'll try to do.

"We were a bit tired by the end today but that's not just Real Madrid, the same goes for all the teams. It's a strange situation, we're back training after 60 days and with the heat and everything. But we have to keep going and all we can do is be more alert with the players, we want to keep moving forward strong."

"We're all more or less in the same boat. The important thing is that it's four wins for us, but that's a credit to the players. We're training well and we always want more," added Zidane.

"The players' attitude has been phenomenal, so too has that of the players who are not playing as much, and this is what makes the difference in the dressing room. We have seven finals left, the players have to recover well and continue with what we are doing, we haven't won anything."

Out-of-favour star Gareth Bale, meanwhile, made his first start for Madrid since February.

Bale, despite working hard, largely failed to impress against relegation-threatened Mallorca.

Zidane said: "We're happy with what we're doing and Gareth is an important player, he's always shown that. The important thing is to play like we're playing. The players change, but the important thing is that the dynamic doesn't change.

"As always, there are players who are going to have more minutes, but that has been the case all along and it's not going to change."

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