Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane insists Gareth Bale remains part of his plans despite “a lot of noise” around the player.
The forward celebrated qualifying for the European Championships next final with a flag stating “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order”
Former Real Madrid forward Predrag Mijatovic – who hit the winning the goal in the 1998 Champions League final – recently claimed those were the priorities of the 30-year-old.
Fans of the international team then used those three words as lyrics to replace their usual ‘Viva Gareth Bale’ chant during the recent victory in Azerbaijan.
The Welshman has been widely criticised in parts of Spanish media for his golfing habit – and the player himself has admitted the sport is his one true habit.
Indeed, such is Bale’s links to the sport that he has been nicknamed ‘The Golfer’ by his Madrid teammates – another stick the Spanish media has used to him.
However, the Welshman’s agent Jonathan Barnett told ESPN FC there was no concern about fan reaction and claimed the flag was intended for the Spanish media.
Zidane was asked nine questions about the player in Friday’s press conference and insisted he would be part of his first-team plans going forward.
“There is a lot of noise around Gareth, but ultimately the most important thing for me as a Coach and him as a footballer is to focus on the game,” Zidane said, as cited by Marca.
“Everyone has an opinion, everyone has thoughts and the opinions are too much already. He went to join Wales, he played and now we get him back again, and we’re delighted to have him back.
“He has given a lot to the club and I am only going to look at issues relating to football. There are a lot of comments that have been made about other things but I’m not interested in that, even if others are.
“I’m not going to answer any more questions about him. You do what you want but I’m just going to say the same thing so there is no point.”
However, the Frenchman was then fielded more questions regardless by the assembled press.
“Did Bale mock Madrid? I don’t know. I am not going to get into that issue, it is not to do with football and it isn’t my job. He is my player, I am Coach of Madrid and that is what interests me.
“Will he be a starter? I’m not going to answer that, but we know what he can give us and there are a lot of matches. I will be counting on all my players, as ever. I will use them all.
“Will Bale leave? What I can say is that he’s fine, he’s back with us after his injury, and now he is available and that’s what matters to me. If he goes one day, he will explain but all I can say now is that he is available and I am happy for the team.”
“I've heard it (the chant), especially when I was on the bench and when I came off, and the boys were laughing,” Bale told Welsh media outlet Sgorio Cymru earlier this week.
“It's a good bit of fun.”
Bale has been linked with an exit from Madrid for months with England and China rumoured to be two possible destinations.
It is claimed that the player’s entourage is pressing Madrid into facilitating his departure and requesting that they listen to offers from suitors, including from China.
A report Marca last week claimed Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua will attempt to sign the Welshman in January.
The same outlet add that the relationship between Bale and Zinedine Zidane is essentially non-existent and the two are drifting further apart.
The Welshman was close to a move to the Far East this summer before Los Blancos president Florentino Perez vetoed the deal late on, with Madrid not being entitled to a transfer fee.
A separate report in ESPN FC from last month claimed the situation with the player and the club is now irreversible and the player has his heart set on a departure from the Spanish capital.
Earlier in October, Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague spoke on the BBC and wrote in Spanish news outlet Diario AS that the Welshman is angry with the situation he finds himself in and is now ready to walk out of the club.
It has been outlined that Bale was mystified by sitting out the recent Champions League clash against Club Brugge with no explanation, as he was totally fit and injury-free for the clash.
The 30-year-old had appeared to be returning to full form and fitness in the opening weeks of the campaign but is now said to be unhappy with his treatment by boss Zinedine Zidane and the club generally.