Chris Coleman has defended Gareth Bale's reserved nature and revealed the oft-criticised Real Madrid winger can speak perfect Spanish.

Wales star Bale almost left LaLiga for China during a turbulent close season in which Zinedine Zidane attempted to force him out of the Santiago Bernabeu.

The pair's relationship reportedly became fractured as Madrid fans showed increasing coldness towards the four-time Champions League winner, their treatment of him described as a "disgrace" by the player's agent.

Criticism of Bale has tended to centre on his speculated inability to learn Spanish as part of a wider reluctance to integrate into the country's culture.

Coleman, who managed the former Tottenham talisman for over five years at international level, believes such accusations are at least in part unfounded.

"I saw John Toshack saying Gareth hasn't given enough of himself to the public in Madrid," the former Wales boss told The Athletic.

"Well he's never done that. It's not his character. When he comes home he plays golf, stays with his family, in his little circle.

"I just thought it was unfair when people were picking him apart. He should do this, do that. No, be yourself. If he's not happy in his head he won't be right on the pitch.

"I've been with Gareth in Madrid, in a restaurant, and he's speaking perfect Spanish, ordering food, greeting people.

"He was very polite, but it's his own space. He has done all his talking on the pitch. He is the most decorated foreign import from the UK."

Bale was Coleman's key man when Wales exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2016.

Coleman stepped down the following November to take up an ill-fated opportunity at Sunderland, with Ryan Giggs named as his replacement.

Performances have not been entirely convincing but the former Fulham manager expects his successor to prove a shrewd appointment.

"I think he'll be good at it," Coleman said. "He is different to me and will do it his own way. Ryan's quiet, but he's super strong mentally."

He added: "Ryan's ego is not big enough where he thinks he's got all the answers, because none of us have. This is his first job, we mustn't forget that. He's going to get better and better."

Zinedine Zidane has opposed Gareth Bale's view of being made a scapegoat at Real Madrid while praising the winger's "amazing" ability.

Wales international Bale almost moved to Chinese side Jiangsu Suning during the transfer window after being told he was free to leave Madrid.

Los Blancos boss Zidane made the decision following months of speculation over their seemingly fractured relationship but the Madrid board blocked his departure at the last minute.

Bale, while on international duty last week, claimed to have been "made more of a scapegoat than most" for the team's shortcomings, a belief not shared by his head coach.

"No, I think we're all guilty if things go wrong or if things go right," Zidane said.

"It's up to us, all of us, we're all in the same boat. We want to change things when things don't go right. We're thinking as a team mentality."

Initially on the outer during the pre-season tour to the United States, Bale has since returned to the first-team fold.

The 30-year-old started each of three club's three LaLiga games before the international break, scoring twice.

"I've always said he's got amazing quality, Gareth Bale," Zidane said.

"He's a great player. What happened in the summer, everyone knew the situation. Now he's here, I'm happy, he's happy, everyone is happy, the fans as well.

"Now we have to move forward."

Bale's reinstatement to the starting XI has partly reduced the opportunities for Vinicius Junior, who has been restricted to one start and a pair of cameo appearances this term.

Zidane, though, is adamant chances will come for the young forward.

"I completely trust Vinicius, I can guarantee that," the Frenchman said.

"I'm his coach. I've got 23, 24 players to choose from but Vinicius is just 19, he's playing for Real Madrid.

"It's like everything, things take time. He's in a process to improve, like all players are. Perhaps at times he won't play because someone else will come in.

"Then you go and get your headlines, you say 'he doesn't want to pick Vinicius' but that's not the point. He will play."

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos labelled Gareth Bale a "great player" and backed his team-mate after a difficult off-season.

Bale was tipped to leave Madrid with a shock move to the Chinese Super League on the cards, however, the Wales star remained at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Unwanted by head coach Zinedine Zidane, Bale – who has won four Champions League titles and LaLiga among other honours since arriving from Tottenham in 2013 – has featured in all three LaLiga matches this season, scoring a brace in Madrid's 2-2 draw with Villarreal last time out.

Amid criticism of Bale and his reported disconnect from the Madrid squad, Ramos told the Daily Mail: "I think Bale's a great player and he's been really important for the club in the years he's been with us.

"You find many things in the press. Some are true, some are not. We live in this world and we have to try to be above all that.

"Regarding what has been said about Gareth, I think time puts everything in place. Regardless of what each player does in his personal life, I think it should be respected and not even talked about. We're free to do what we want with our free time.

"Of course, professionally, you owe yourself to a team, to a club, and you try to be as honest as possible. Afterwards, it's up to each person to go home with a clear conscience or not."

Doubts over Bale's future came after Zidane returned for a second spell in charge of Madrid towards the latter stages of the 2018-19 campaign.

Zidane oversaw three successive Champions League triumphs before leaving in 2018, however, the Frenchman returned following the departures of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari.

Madrid finished third in LaLiga last season as their Champions League defence ended in the last 16, while the Spanish giants are four points off the pace with just one win in three games this term.

"He remains the same person. He keeps his essence as a manager. He has more experience," Ramos said of Zidane. "I would sum up in essence he is the same person, but better because he has more experience."

Ramos, who equalled the record for most Spain caps with his 167th international appearance in Euro 2020 qualifying, added: "Of course after a winning streak for a long time, there's a turning point. Yes, we stopped winning. But there isn't a component of the team that is tired of winning. It is just something that happened and we have to reset and restart. We have new people in our team.

"We will always be a contender to winning. You are forced to win every year. We have to get rid of a bad season and we have more hunger to win and more hunger for competition. I think this will be a good year and we have to do things right from the beginning."

Gareth Bale says he would be wasting his time playing for Wales if he did not believe Ryan Giggs' side could qualify for Euro 2020.

Bale salvaged a victory for Wales on Friday, with his late goal securing a 2-1 home win over Azerbaijan.

The win lifted Wales on to six points from their four games in Group E, and though they sit in fourth, they are only three points behind joint-leaders Croatia and Hungary.

Slovakia are level with Wales as it stands, and the sides will face off in what could be a crucial qualifier on October 10.

Though Bale acknowledged the squad are still working on adapting to Giggs' desired style of play, he is in no doubt Wales - semi-finalists at Euro 2016 - can qualify for next year's tournament.

"Yeah definitely, I wouldn't be here otherwise, I would not be wasting my time," Bale told a news conference ahead of Monday's friendly against Belarus.

"I love playing for my country, I love trying to qualify for major tournaments and having that taste of it at Euro 2016 gives you that hunger to do it again and to experience what we did.

"We all still fully believe we can and we hope the public still believes and give us all the support we need because they're the 12th man.

"I think we're still working on things and there's things we're improving on. We're working on [Giggs'] style of play, what he wants us to do and sometimes it does take a bit of time.

"I think that's why it's good now to have a friendly. A match situation is always more intense and more difficult to do things than in training.

"We still want to keep that winning mentality and get that momentum building and by winning games that's what you do."

Bale's header against Azerbaijan took the 30-year-old four clear of Ian Rush as the leading scorer in Wales' history with 32, and the Real Madrid forward acknowledged he has a target of international goals in mind.

"I've got a little target in my head but it's just one of those personal goals," Wales' captain added.

"If I achieve it, great, but if I don't then it's okay. It's something I'd like to do but the most important thing is to win games for my country and to give fans something to cheer about."

Ryan Giggs does not think Wales' slender 2-1 win over Azerbaijan is anything to be alarmed about, reminding his critics World Cup finalists Croatia only beat Nikola Jurcevic's men by the same score.

Wales dominated much of the Euro 2020 qualifier at Cardiff City Stadium on Friday, taking the lead fortuitously in the first half when Gareth Bale's deflected effort looped into the area and was diverted past the stranded goalkeeper by the oblivious Pavlo Pashayev.

Azerbaijan were back on level terms just before the hour, as Neil Taylor gifted possession to Ramil Sheydaev and he fed Mahir Emreli, who slotted home on the rebound after Wayne Hennessey haplessly fumbled the initial tame effort right back to the forward.

Luckily for Wales, Bale – who was otherwise disappointing – nodded in six minutes from time to secure the win.

Wales fans have been extremely critical of Giggs in recent months, though he looked to calm those concerned by Friday's performance, highlighting Croatia's identical result.

"[Bale's goal] was huge – we needed that win no matter how we got it," Giggs said. "Obviously we wanted to play well, score lots of goals, but sometimes football is like that.

"You have to show character. The lads worked hard. It's the same score Croatia beat Azerbaijan by at home, so they're not an easy team to play against, they're good on the counter.

"We had no excuses tonight and we haven't going forward. We need to play better, show the same character, but be better on the ball."

Despite their dominance, Wales struggled to carve out clear-cut chances and break their visitors down but Giggs insists he knows what went wrong.

"In the first half we just didn't stick to the plan," Giggs added. "When we did [stick to the plan], we looked dangerous.

"We created chances, space, but we were in too much of a hurry to get up the pitch instead of making Azerbaijan run.

"When we made them run, moved the ball quickly, that was when the spaces appeared. There were too many players who weren't on form, but we worked hard, I can never fault the way they worked, the character they've shown, because it's not easy. I'm delighted with the character shown."

The result leaves Wales third in Group E, three points behind top two Hungary and Croatia.

Gareth Bale scored a late winner to keep Wales' Euro 2020 qualification hopes very much alive with a 2-1 triumph over Azerbaijan in Cardiff on Friday.

Ryan Giggs' men looked to be heading for a thoroughly underwhelming stalemate, but Bale – who was otherwise poor – came up trumps six minutes from time to keep them in the hunt in Group E.

Wales were dominant in the first half and played the ball around nicely, though clear-cut chances were hard to come by, with the hosts having to rely on a freak Pavlo Pashayev own goal to take the lead.

They had similar issues after the break and a costly combination of errors from Neil Taylor and Wayne Hennessey allowed Mahir Emreli to equalise, but Bale - back among the goals at club level with Real Madrid - nodded in towards the end to rescue Giggs' side.

Gareth Bale feels he has been made a scapegoat at Real Madrid and is eager to reach an amicable conclusion with the club over his future.

The 30-year-old came close to leaving the Santiago Bernabeu for Chinese club Jiangsu Suning during the transfer window after being told by boss Zinedine Zidane he was free to leave.

Madrid's board reportedly blocked his exit at the last minute, however, and Bale has started all three LaLiga matches this term.

Bale, under contract for another three years, believes he has been unfairly targeted during a period of upheaval for the Spanish giants and says he is "not playing happy".

"I understand I was made more of a scapegoat than most - I take it with a pinch of salt even though maybe it's not all fully fair," he told Sky Sports.

"Towards the end of last season was difficult, there is no denying that, not just for me but for the team.

"I wouldn't say I'm playing happy, but I'm playing. When I'm playing I am professional and I am always giving all I can, whether that be for club or country.

"I'm sure there'll be plenty more turbulence, to be honest. I suppose it is something you will have to speak to Real Madrid about and it's between me and them, and we will have to come to some sort of conclusion."

Bale has started the new season in solid fashion with two goals and an assist in three LaLiga matches, including a brace in Sunday's 2-2 draw at Villarreal before being sent off for two quickfire yellow cards.

The winger, who is in line to start Wales' crucial Euro 2020 qualifier with Azerbaijan on Friday, dismissed the notion it has been the most difficult period of his career.

"Coming back to pre-season, I just kept my head down and I know there was a lot of talk, with people saying the good, bad, or whatever they wanted," he said.

"It wasn't the worst time of my career. It has been not ideal, but I know how to deal with it and it's about keeping your head down.

"You get rewarded with the work you put in and I've started the season well and did a good pre-season, even if that hasn't been the case with the number of games.

"Things in football can turn quickly and it is just a matter of time."

Gareth Bale has cleared the air with Thibaut Courtois after the goalkeeper let slip that Real Madrid team-mates nicknamed the Welsh star "the golfer".

That revelation emerged earlier this year when Courtois, in an interview with a Belgian newspaper, also hinted at bemusement over Bale and Toni Kroos skipping a team evening meal because they wanted to avoid a late night.

Bale, who says his critics are misinformed and their verdicts on his Santiago Bernabeu career "mean nothing", made sure he got to the bottom of Courtois' comments.

And he believes the Belgian goalkeeper meant no offence.

"I am a golfer!" Bale said in a Wales news conference on Thursday. "I spoke to him about it and he meant it as a joke.

"People took it out of context, but I'm very happy with the nickname to be honest. It's a great one.

"Obviously football is number one. Golf is a hobby like anyone else would have a hobby.

"There's nothing wrong with having a round and people make a lot of it. It's just one thing I really enjoy. It keeps me calmer off the pitch."

Bale's scorn for the hot takes about his Madrid future was spelt out by the 30-year-old, after a transfer window full of speculation linking him with a move away from Spain.

He reportedly came close to joining Chinese club Jiangsu Suning, and was linked with various Premier League teams, but ended up staying in Madrid.

Asked about the rumours surrounding him, Bale said: "I just don't listen to any of it because they don't really know what they're on about. I don't read anything, I don't listen to anyone.

"Most people don't know the situation, don't understand things, so what they're writing means nothing."

After regaining the faith of Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, who said during the summer it would be "best for everyone" if Bale moved on, the winger could yet have successful years ahead at the club.

Wales boss Ryan Giggs enjoyed seeing his star man net a double in Madrid's 2-2 draw at Villarreal on Sunday, although Bale's late red card was a blemish on that performance.

"It's good to see him scoring again because usually when he scores he gets on a roll, so hopefully that'll be the case," Giggs said.

Manchester United winger Daniel James could eventually supplant Bale as the Wales talisman, but Giggs is thrilled at the prospect of them playing in tandem for now.

"Dan's got off to a great start in his Manchester United career but also he's been brilliant for us in the last few games, especially in the summer [June] under difficult circumstances," said Giggs, referring to James' father dying in late May.

"It's not only about Gareth. The pressure is always on Gareth and the spotlight is always on Gareth, but I want to bring that pressure off Gareth where we can't rely on him in every game because we have other talented players in the squad."

Wales face Azerbaijan in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday, having lost their past two Group E matches.

Barcelona should view their failure to seal a deal for Neymar as a blessing in disguise, according to Vicente del Bosque.

The LaLiga champions were unable to reach an agreement with Paris Saint-Germain prior to Monday's transfer deadline.

Brazil international Neymar, who is said to be unhappy in France, could still return to Camp Nou in future, while Real Madrid reportedly remain interested.

But former Madrid and Spain boss Del Bosque believes the talented 27-year-old represents more trouble than he is worth.

"It would have been good for the Spanish league for him to return but if I was involved with a club, I wouldn't have signed him," Del Bosque told RTVE programme Estudio Estadio.

"He is a great player, but there are other things I don't like. He did not behave well at Barcelona. He behaved badly, or very badly.

"If you did a survey in Barcelona, there would surely be more than 50 per cent who would be reluctant to have him back."

Another of the close season's transfer sagas took place over at Del Bosque's former employers Madrid as Zinedine Zidane unsuccessfully attempted to remove Gareth Bale from his squad.

The Wales international appeared destined for the Chinese Super League until Madrid's board blocked his departure.

Bale has since returned to favour, starting each of the club's three LaLiga matches this term, and Del Bosque thinks the four-time Champions League winner will prove useful to Zidane.

"No one thought his behaviour was bad, just that he did not adapt to Madrid. Very few people doubted his qualities," the retired World Cup winner said.

"I think he will perform for them because he is a very good player."

Zinedine Zidane refused to dwell on Gareth Bale's sending off against Villarreal, instead focusing on the Wales star's two-goal display in the 2-2 draw.

Bale has endured a difficult time at Madrid due to a strained relationship with head coach Zidane, fan criticism and a failed move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning.

But after staying, Bale has started the season well and scored for the first time since March on Sunday, netting both goals as Madrid battled to a stalemate in LaLiga action at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Bale's second goal came four minutes from time and ensured Los Blancos earned a point, but he was booked twice in stoppage time to be send off, putting a dampener on proceedings.

Zidane, however, was not focusing on the sour end to Bale's outing away from home.

"They were two fouls and two yellow cards," Zidane told reporters. "But now to think about a rest. Well, maybe not a rest as he's going with his national team.

"I am happy for his goals and we keep going with the positive things."

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos made an error for Villarreal's first goal, finding himself robbed of possession by Gerard Moreno in the build-up.

And while Zidane acknowledged Madrid could have been better, he remained upbeat and positive about future improvement.

When asked if there was a lack of defensive intensity, he said: "At the start of the game, yes, and in the game it's always important to start strong.

"But I think that the 30 minutes after that, we were better in everything. We got the equaliser before the break and that was important.

"We controlled the game, these things [conceding goals through errors] happen. We have to work on this, to improve our defensive ways and later offensively we know that we will create things. I will stick with the positive, the reaction. It's important we didn't lose."

Casemiro was unequivocal in his assessment of Real Madrid's 2-2 LaLiga draw at Villarreal, surmising they were "lacking everything" at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Madrid twice had to come from behind on Sunday, with Gareth Bale's efforts cancelling out strikes from Gerard Moreno and then Moi Gomez, before the Wales star was sent off for two bookings in as many stoppage-time minutes.

Despite Bale salvaging Madrid a point away from home, Casemiro was scathing of the team's performance, convinced they underwhelmed all over the pitch.

"We are lacking everything," he said. "We have to score goals and be better defensively. This is a team. If we defend, we all defend. If we attack, we all attack. This is the spirit.

"Real Madrid ore obliged to win always, this jersey makes it an obligation. This is a complicated stadium. We had control for 65 minutes, but they got into it and scored.

"This is the way forward, we keep adding points. The international break is here and we can change our mindset. We have to keep working.

"[Fan frustration] is normal, but they have to see the work we do. We have to keep working to get as far as we can in LaLiga."

Madrid return to LaLiga action after the international break against Levante on September 14.

Gareth Bale spared Real Madrid's blushes as the winger ended a six-month goal drought to score twice and rescue a 2-2 draw at Villarreal on Sunday, only to then be sent off.

The Yellow Submarine had seemingly sealed the three points when Moi Gomez netted 16 minutes from time, but Bale – who looked destined for the exit not long ago – doubled his tally for the day late on to prevent a first LaLiga defeat of the season.

In a dramatic finale, he spoiled an otherwise fine individual outing by picking up two late bookings.

Villarreal's dynamism on the front foot caused their visitors real issues, as evidenced by Gerard Moreno's early goal, but Madrid showed flashes of excellence themselves and levelled just before the break through Bale after a sumptuous move.

Zinedine Zidane's men appeared to be hit by a sucker-punch towards the end when Gomez tapped in, but Bale's undeniable quality told in the 86th minute with his equaliser, before the Wales star received his marching orders in stoppage time for a second bookable offence in two minutes.

Some major European clubs have only a week left to add to their squads with the transfer window for much of the continent set to close on September 2.

Lots of big moves have already been completed with players including Eden Hazard, Joao Felix, Antoine Griezmann, Nicolas Pepe and Harry Maguire swapping teams for huge fees.

But the last week of the window tends to be when clubs kick into gear, with one super-sized deal potentially setting off a chain reaction.

Who are the stars still in the middle of transfer sagas? Omnisport picks out a few names to keep an eye on in the coming days.


ALEXIS SANCHEZ

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to have decided there is no place in his Manchester United squad for Sanchez, who is being strongly linked with a loan move to Inter. That would see him reunite with another player who found himself on the fringes at Old Trafford in Romelu Lukaku, who has reportedly been encouraging the Chile international to join him at San Siro. Sanchez's wages – said to be as high as £500,000 a week – are likely to pose a problem for any deal, though.

NEYMAR

Injuries to Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe have complicated matters for Paris Saint-Germain's wantaway superstar Neymar. A return to Barcelona has been mooted for the 27-year-old, who left Camp Nou in 2017 for a world record €222million, but the Catalans have reportedly seen a number of cash-plus-players offers rejected. LaLiga rivals Real Madrid have long been linked with Neymar too, though their capture of Hazard means they have already added one world-class talent who prefers to operate from the left flank. It has been suggested a loan move might now be the Brazilian's best chance of securing the departure from PSG that sporting director Leonardo has confirmed he wants.

PAUL POGBA

Pogba was United's top scorer in the Premier League last term but his season ended with a confrontation with supporters after the final game of the campaign, a home loss to Cardiff City. The Frenchman confirmed in June he was seeking a "new challenge" but is yet to get a move away. Pogba, who was targeted by racist abuse after failing to convert a penalty in a draw at Wolves last Monday, is reportedly wanted at Madrid by Zinedine Zidane. But time is running out to do that deal, especially as United are unable to secure a replacement as the Premier League's window has already closed.


CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN

Mauricio Pochettino has only started Eriksen in one of Tottenham's three Premier League games this term amid continued speculation over his future. Like Pogba, Eriksen is on record as saying he wants to move on, but his position is even more perilous for Spurs as the Denmark midfielder is in the final year of his contract. Chairman Daniel Levy is known for his brinksmanship, so this deal could go right down to the wire. Eriksen is believed to be Madrid's back-up option should they fail to land Pogba.


PAULO DYBALA

One of the players in the Neymar chain is Dybala, who was an unused substitute as Juventus started their Serie A title defence with a 1-0 win at Parma on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival in Turin last year was always likely to be bad news for someone – and it was Dybala who suffered the most. The Argentina attacker is still regarded as one of world football's brightest lights, but at 25 he cannot afford another season on the periphery. Tottenham almost signed Dybala but the deal was understood to have collapsed amid problems with his image rights, while United reportedly pulled out over his wage demands. Should Neymar leave Paris, Dybala is said to be top of PSG's list and, with Juve needing to cut a bloated squad, he would likely be allowed to leave if the price was right.


LUKA JOVIC

Madrid also have too many players and, despite the Serbia striker only recently joining from Eintracht Frankfurt, Jovic may be allowed to leave - even if his departure is a loan move. Jovic's goals were instrumental in Eintracht's run to the Europa League semi-finals but Zidane is seemingly not a fan of the 21-year-old. Jovic has said he will not be leaving but, if the right club comes in, Madrid could be persuaded to let him go.


GARETH BALE

The relationship between Zidane and Bale seemed to be beyond repair, especially as the Madrid coach said during a pre-season tour that it would be best if the Wales star left the club. But after a move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning fell through, Bale has been reintegrated at the Santiago Bernabeu and has started their two LaLiga games this season. It is not out of the question that Bale could still leave in the next week, but his future seems to be in the Spanish capital - at least for now.


JAMES RODRIGUEZ

Similarly to Bale, James has been selected by Zidane in the new LaLiga season after apparently being outcast at Madrid. The Colombia playmaker spent the past two years on loan with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and was strongly being linked with a move to Atletico Madrid before Diego Simeone's side thrashed their cross-city rivals 7-3 in a pre-season game in the United States. Carlo Ancelotti - who coached the 28-year-old at Madrid and Bayern - has also confirmed James is a target for Napoli, but the Serie A side have been unable to make that deal happen. A calf injury sustained on Saturday could also throw a spanner in the works for James.

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."

Ryan Giggs is pleased Gareth Bale's Real Madrid future has for now been resolved but he still would have picked the forward for Wales had he moved to China.

Bale appeared to be on the brink of a switch to Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning amid an apparent breakdown in relations with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

However, that prospective transfer fell through and Zidane has since indicated Bale will be staying at Madrid beyond the end of the transfer window.

Speaking after naming his squad for the Euro 2020 qualifier with Azerbaijan next month, Wales manager Giggs said: "I kept in touch with him [Bale] to see if he was all right.

"It was a strange situation but hopefully now it's sorted out - Gareth stays and plays games.

"It's obviously positive at the moment, I'm really pleased with the situation and looking forward to meeting up."

Asked what impact a move to China would have had on Bale's international career, Giggs replied: "It wouldn't have been ideal.

"It's a preference for your players to be in Europe with the travelling and the different calendars, but I'd still have picked him."

Former Manchester United star Giggs believes the Red Devils' Welsh winger Daniel James requires more protection from referees.

James was booked for simulation in United's 1-1 draw with Wolves, in which he was persistently fouled.

"You've seen he gets kicked a lot," Giggs added of James.

"Sometimes when you anticipate it, it can look live a dive. The speed he's going at it can look worse, but I'm not worried about that.

"He gets a lot of stick and referees need to protect him."

Page 1 of 17
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.