Soccer

Bale saga takes fresh twist as Zidane’s "preferred not to play" claim disputed

Zinedine Zidane says Gareth Bale “preferred not to play” and was subsequently left at home from Real Madrid ’s Champions League clash with Manchester City.

But Bale’s camp have issues with the Frenchman’s timeline of events.

The Welshman, 31, was not included in Los Blancos’ 24-man squad for Friday night’s last 16, second leg tie.

That’s despite eight forwards and skipper Sergio Ramos being named by Zidane – even though the centre-back is suspended for the Etihad showdown.

Speaking at his Thursday press conference ahead of the game, Zidane was asked a number of questions about Bale’s exclusion.

He offered: "We have a respectful coach-player relationship. The only thing I can say is that he preferred not to play.

"Nothing more. The rest is between him and me."

However, when further questions were forthcoming, he did not elaborate.

But sources close to Bale have since questioned Zidane’s disclosure.

Numerous outlets, including AFP and the Standard have been told Bale requested to remain in Madrid when it became clear that he would not feature once more in Manchester.

Bale had trained this week, before a conversation with Zidane over his chance of featuring – having not appeared in any of Madrid’s last seven La Liga matches.

Zidane would not reveal on Thursday the details of their discussion, but its claimed Bale only asked to stay behind knowing that Zidane has no intention of using him at the Etihad.

Bale still has two years left on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.

His agent, Jonathan Barnett, recently stated that he could see out his big-money deal, despite Madrid’s keenness to move the player on before the transfer window closes.

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